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Switzerland: Forced Marriage

(Dec. 2, 2007) The Swiss Federal Council (the executive branch of the Swiss government) communicated to the Swiss parliament its concern over the high incidence of forced marriages among the immigrant population from Islamic countries and its intention to propose law reforms to forestall such abuses. Among the contemplated measures is the voidability, for an indefinite time, of forced marriages and the refusal to recognize marriages of persons below the age of 18. In addition, civil registrars may be held to a higher standard of care in detecting and preventing forced marriages. (Bundesrat nimmt Zwangsehe ins Visier, NZZ ONLINE, Nov. 14, 2007.)

Currently, the Swiss Civil Code requires a minimum age of 18 for marriages in Switzerland (Schweizerisches Zivilgesetzbuch, Dec. 10, 1907 (ZGB), as amended, SYSTEMATISCHE SAMMLUNG DES BUNDESRECHTS (SR) 201, art. 94, para. 1) and makes forced marriages voidable for a period of six months (ZGB, art. 107, no. 4). However, the Swiss Conflicts Code recognizes a marriage of aliens celebrated abroad if the marriage requirements of the place of celebration are met (Bundesgesetz ├╝ber das internationale Privatrecht (IPRG), Dec. 18, 1987, SR 291, art. 45, para. 1); according to this principle, the marriage of aliens below the age of 18 is recognized in Switzerland, unless this recognition were to violate public policy (IPRG, art. 27).