Germany cracks down on child marriages

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday. Germany's Cabinet has approved new rules to ensure that most marriages involving under-18s aren't legally recognized in the country. The issue arose following the influx of migrants to Germany in 2015, and the main aim is to protect girls who were married abroad. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Updated 05 April 2017
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Germany cracks down on child marriages

BERLIN: Germany’s cabinet Wednesday moved to ban child marriages after the recent mass refugee influx brought in many couples where one or both partners were aged under 18.
The new law, set to receive parliamentary approval by July, is seen as a protective move especially for girls by annulling foreign marriages involving minors.
It will allow youth welfare workers to take into care underaged girls even if they were legally married abroad and, if deemed necessary, separate them from their husbands.
“Children do not belong in the marriage registry office or the wedding hall,” said Justice Minister Heiko Maas.
“We must not tolerate any marriages that harm minors in their development.”
“The underaged must be protected as much as possible,” he added, stressing that no minor must suffer restrictions on their asylum or residential status as a result of the change.
The age of consent for all marriages in Germany will be raised from 16 to 18 years. Currently in some cases an 18-year-old is allowed to marry a 16-year-old.
Foreign marriages involving spouses under 16 will be considered invalid, and those involving 16 or 17-year-olds can be annulled by family courts.
Rare exceptions are possible, for example when one of the spouses suffers from a serious illness — but only if the couple are now both adults and both want to stay married.
The draft law would also punish with a fine any attempts to marry minors in traditional or religious rather than state ceremonies.
There were 1,475 married minors registered in Germany last July — 361 of them aged under 14 — according to the latest figures released after a parliamentary request.
Of these 1,152 were girls, said the interior ministry.
The largest group, 664 children, came from Syria followed by 157 from Afghanistan, 100 from Iraq, and 65 from Bulgaria.
The conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung welcomed the bill, saying that “archaic practices that harm women and children have no place” in Germany.
The aim was not to “paternalistically spread one’s values or disrespect foreign cultures,” but to enforce “fundamental and, in principle, globally recognized human rights.”
The non-profit German Children’s Aid Foundation said it generally welcomed the new draft law as a sign of “progress” but said courts should have latitude in some tricky cases where one spouse is aged 16 or 17.
These could involve underage couples that have their own children, who could then be considered born out of wedlock and lose certain entitlements and inheritance rights, warned the group’s head, Thomas Krueger.
In such cases, recognizing a marriage involving one 16 or 17-year-old “can be acceptable, for example, if the relationship is proven to be emotionally stable and there is no evidence of compulsion,” he said in a statement.
“The opinion of the minor is also decisive and must absolutely be taken into account.”


Djibouti asks UN help to end border dispute with Eritrea

Djibouti’s UN ambassador, Mohamed Siad Doualeh. (Courtesy: Youtube)
Updated 52 min 51 sec ago
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Djibouti asks UN help to end border dispute with Eritrea

  • Eritrea had successfully resolved a dispute with Yemen over their sea boundary and a Red Sea island through binding international arbitration
  • Djibouti accused Eritrean troops of occupying the Dumeira mountain area

UNITED NATIONS: Djibouti is asking Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to help peacefully resolve a border dispute with Eritrea following the recent end to that nation’s 20-year border dispute with Ethiopia.
Djibouti’s UN ambassador, Mohamed Siad Doualeh, asked Guterres in a letter circulated Wednesday to work with the Security Council to bring his tiny port nation and Eritrea together “with the aim of facilitating an agreement between them upon a mutually acceptable means of peaceful dispute settlement.”
He said Djibouti’s preference would be to refer the dispute “to judicial settlement or arbitration” that would be legally binding.
Djibouti’s appeal to the UN chief follows the dramatic diplomatic thaw to one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts that began last month when Ethiopia’s reformist new prime minister fully accepted a peace deal that ended a 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea that killed tens of thousands.
Doualeh recalled that the Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 “because of its aggression against Djibouti and its refusal to withdraw its troops from the disputed area, and its rejection of all efforts aimed at mediating between the two parties.”
Djibouti accused Eritrean troops of occupying the Dumeira mountain area shortly after the peacekeepers left on June 13, 2017, and lodged a formal complaint with the African Union.
“Eritrean forces continue to occupy Djiboutian territory, prisoners of war remain unaccounted for, threats of force continue to emanate from the Eritrean side and the risk of violent confrontation is once again high,” Doualeh said.
He warned that without any effort to end the border dispute, the UN monitoring group has said “the situation on the ground remains vulnerable to provocation by both parties, which could result in the rapid escalation of conflict.”
“There is thus an urgent need for a new dispute settlement mechanism,” Doualeh said.
He said Djibouti applauds the secretary-general’s recent decision to refer a longstanding border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana to the International Court of Justice. He also noted that Eritrea had successfully resolved a dispute with Yemen over their sea boundary and a Red Sea island through binding international arbitration.
Doualeh said Djibouti will “consider in good faith any proposals that you or the Security Council might make with regard to the appropriate means of peaceful dispute settlement.”