Another problem Europe imported:
Should a 14-year-old married girl who migrates to Europe be viewed as a child - or a spouse?
The issue has put European governments in a spin: forcing a policy U-turn in Denmark, new legislation in the Netherlands and an agonised debate in Germany.
Analysts say early marriage is often carried out in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey by families trying to protect girls from poverty or sexual exploitation. Elsewhere, poor families might marry off their young daughters in exchange for dowries.
The question is one of rights and protections - but which? When authorities stop minors cohabiting with their older spouses, are they combating child abuse or breaking up (often already traumatised) families?
Depending on where you go in Europe, you'll find a radically different range of responses to the issue.
This really shouldn't be a problem if we apply a few simple principles:
- If some other cultures in the world approve of child marriage, that's fine. They should be permitted to carry on that custom without interference.
- In modern Western culture, this practice is illegal and against public policy. It should neither be permitted on European soil or recognized in any way.
- This means any marriage in which one partner is underage should be automatically dissolved by law when a couple emigrates to Europe with plans to resettle. Filing an asylum application is proof of intent to resettle. Each partner to the marriage will be processed singly.
- If the parties do not agree to this, they will be summarily returned to the refugee camp from which they emigrated.
This policy should be posted everywhere in Turkish refugee camps, so people will understand before they set out for Europe. Child marriage is accepted in certain cultures and that's OK over there, within that culture. It is not accepted in Europe, and Europe has every right to absolutely ban it under all circumstances. Europeans aren't trying to bring Leather Pride parades to downtown Damascus, and people from Syria shouldn't try to bring child marriage to Europe.
Every cultural practice in its proper place. What's so hard about that?