Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) attended a panel discussion on municipal policy organised by the Association of Finnish Municipalities in Helsinki on 15 September 2021. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) believes the legislation should enable the abrogation of marriages into which at least one of the parties has been forced, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The proposal states that the abrogation would restore the previous marital status of the party, but in other respect the legal ramifications of the abrogation would align with those of a divorce.

Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) on Thursday stated that the amendment is to be made to the marriage act.

“Forced marriages are a phenomenon we can’t turn a blind eye to. We want to enhance the recognition that forced marriages aren’t allowed through the legislation,” she explained to Helsingin Sanomat.

The national assistance system for victims of human trafficking has reported that the share of forced marriages has risen substantially since 2016. Forced marriages, it told, are typically formed in another country, with the victim typically a minor, but continue in circumstances that violate human rights in Finland.

A total of 19 people entered into the assistance system in the early parts of this year on grounds of forced marriage.

The Ministry of Justice is also finalising a memorandum on whether forced marriage should carry a statutory punishment. The current legislation allows for the imposition of punishments only if the arrangement is deemed to meet the elements of coercion or human trafficking.

Henriksson said she has yet to form a firm opinion on the matter.

“You have to be open to the thinking that criminalisation may become necessary. I’m leaning toward thinking that some type of criminalisation may be necessary,” she commented to the newspaper.

The Ministry of Justice also considered annulment as an alternative to abrogation, but the latter was adopted as the approach because it guarantees better rights and standing for the party forced into the marriage. If the marriage was annulled, it would have never been in force from a legal viewpoint.

“Abrogation is better for the forced spouse and children because children, for instance, would retain the right to inheritance and maintenance allowance. Annulment would’ve stripped the child of the status of a child born in wedlock,” explained Eriksson.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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