Paris issues manual to stop forced marriages
By Estelle Shirbon
PARIS (Reuters) - The Paris City Hall launched a manual on forced marriages on Wednesday to help officials spot and prevent cases of young women being coerced into matrimony.
An estimated 70,000 teenage girls living in France are victims or potential victims of forced marriages, many of them from immigrant families, according to a government study.
Municipal officials in charge of conducting weddings are often at a loss about what to do when faced with a suspicious situation, hence the new guidelines.
"A wedding is normally a moment of happiness when officials participate in the joy of families, but it can turn into a nightmare," said Jacques Bravo, mayor of the 9th district of the city, at an event to launch the manual.
"There are situations when you arrive in the weddings hall only to find a young woman alone on one side of the room and 60 or 80 men on the other side. As a young official it can be hard to know what to do," he said.
Bravo said that in his district, one of 20 in Paris that have a city hall where weddings take place, there were usually three or four cases of suspected forced marriages a year out of approximately 350 weddings.
Causes can vary widely, from cultural and religious factors to the will by immigrant parents to "protect" their daughters from feared relationships with men from other communities.
The new manual, a 32-page booklet that will be distributed to officials in the 20 districts, lists clues that can arouse suspicions and explains what the law allows officials to do. Continued...