Our story begins with two Swedish government agencies. The job of the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) is “to ensure good health, social welfare and high-quality health and social care on equal terms for the whole Swedish population.” It is part of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. The Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) is “the authority that considers applications from people who want to take up permanent residence in Sweden, come for a visit, seek protection from persecution or become Swedish citizens.”
On March 24, the two agencies released a four-page brochure. It was entitled “Information for Those who Are Married to Children.” Yes, you read that right. Its cover featured a cheery drawing of a very dark-skinned girl in hijab and a somewhat dark-skinned boy and girl in more Western-looking garb. The style of illustration was recognizable from a thousand children’s books. But this wasn’t a children’s book. It was a brochure for adults living in Sweden whose “spouses” are minors.
The brochure started off by stating: “Child marriages are prohibited in Sweden.” Well, yes, technically. But the very existence of the brochure is a reflection of the fact that such marriages exist and are officially tolerated. The brochure explained the reason for the prohibition: “Children have the right to be children and not to have the responsibility that a marriage involves.” Also, children need schooling; marriage can lead a child to experience physical and psychological problems; and if a child gets pregnant, that, too, can lead to problems.
There followed a list of some of the rights that children supposedly enjoy in Sweden, among them the right to divorce, to refuse sex (even with a spouse), and to obtain an abortion. The brochure stated that having sex with a child is illegal, even if you are married to her. Again, all this is technically true. But in practice, nobody is arrested or imprisoned for being “married” to a child.
The brochure explained that while the social services system is responsible for arranging accommodation for children who come to Sweden unaccompanied, it is the job of the Migration Agency to arrange accommodation for adult asylum seekers. As for adults who arrive with underage wives, “social services may suggest that you not live together for a longer or shorter period.”
“May”? What this clearly means is that in some cases, Swedish authorities will actually allow an adult immigrant to share his bed with a “wife” aged six or eight or ten.
There’s more: “Since children under 15 have an absolute right to be protected from sexual actions, it is unsuitable that you live together if the child is under 15.” The Swedish word for “unsuitable” is olämplig. It can also be translated as “inadvisable.” In short, it is an absurd euphemism. As Henrik Sundt commented at document.no: “Will the authorities ‘suggest’ that the child not live with her assailant for a shorter or longer period? And is it ‘unsuitable’ for a pedophile to live together with his victim?”
The brochure went on to explicitly state that both the social services and the Migration Agency will give a “married” child “the opportunity to express her own opinion as to where she will live.” The potential difficulties of this approach hardly need to be spelled out. Imagine, say, that a girl has been forced by her parents in Iraq or Pakistan or Afghanistan into a “marriage” with some old geezer, and has had it driven into her head by everyone in her native village that he is, in fact, her rightful husband in the eyes of Allah. Now she comes to Sweden and is asked where she wants to live. The old man may have been beating her and causing her physical harm through brutal intercourse; he may be cruel to her, and she may be scared to death of him. But despite all that – or, perhaps, because of it, because she fears that she will be subject to retribution by him and her family if she says otherwise – she may well declare that she wishes to live with her “husband.”
Now, when it comes to Muslims and immigration, the Swedes are certifiably nuts. For them, endless virtue signaling is more important than their own survival. But more and more of them are coming to their senses, and in any case, crazy as they are, they’re not quite as crazy as their government. They may love “bridge-building,” but even for the Swedes, it turned out, this reprehensible brochure was a bridge too far.
“Too cheery and too Swedish-bureaucratic,” complained Minister of Migration Tobias Billström on Twitter. “As if it were about student loans or vaccinations. And where is the word prison?” An educator in Gothenburg noted the absence of any mention of female genital mutilation. Sakine Madon, political editor of Vestmanlands Läns Tidning, argued that, given the fact that child brides have been brainwashed by the honor-system mentality, it was insane to suggest that such a child was in any position to make a sensible decision about whether or not to live with her adult “husband.”
On March 29, in response to the blistering public outrage, the National Board of Health and Welfare yanked the brochure. That evening, when I went to the page on the board’s website where the brochure had previously been available for download, I found instead the following statement: “After strong reactions, the National Board of Health and Welfare has decided to withdraw the material about children who are married.” (As it turns out, the brochure is still accessible via the Wayback Machine.)
This is not the first asinine move on the part of the Swedish government, and it won’t be the last. Perhaps it’s best to focus on the positive: the fact that a good many Swedes, even in top government positions, are snapping out of reflexive appeasement mode and, when confronted with a piece of nonsense like “Information for Those who Are Married to Children,” are capable of experiencing – and expressing – indignation where indignation, and nothing less, is called for. Alas, it doesn’t look as if this sorry episode will do anything whatsoever to alter the fact that there are child brides living in Sweden – where they are raped, beaten, subjected to genital mutilation, and impregnated at ages when they should be playing with dolls and learning to read.