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Stretch, grab a late afternoon cup of caffeine and get caught up on the most important news of the day with our Coffee Break newsletter. These are the stories that will fill you in on the world that's spinning outside of your office window - at the moment that you get a chance to take a breath.
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Married to a Child? Here's a Brochure!

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?”