On Thursday, the Danish Parliament passed a bill prohibiting people under the age of 18 from getting married in a move to protect minors from entering into marriage unwillingly.
The new law will come into effect on February 1 and comes as a U-turn after Danish Immigration Service (DIS) in September claimed keeping the couples apart violated international conventions.
In a report, DIS wrote: “In some of these cases it has been it has been assessed that it would not be compatible with Denmark’s international obligations to maintain the separate living quarters, thus these couples have been offered to be housed together.”
The furious debate was sparked in February last year when Integration Minister Inger Støjberg announced that child brides should be separated from their spouses.
Under 18s have been banned from marrying in Denmark
I don’t agree that this is symbolic and unnecessary
At the time there were about 32 couples the state was aware of where a minor was married to a man above the age of 18.
Defending the decision, Ms Støjberg in cases where one of the spouses was a minor they should be separated and made to live at separate accommodations to ensure the underaged party had not been forced into the union.
Despite government politician’s demand for the couples to be separated, her decision was overruled because it “breached their rights” and it was hailed as a victory by the Alternative party’s Integration Minister, Josephine Fock.
She said: “It is completely outrageous. We are talking about people who have fled to Denmark who are being split from each other.
“Some of them have children together and investigating individual [asylum] cases takes an unbelievably long time.”
As the overturn was announced, a number of politicians and political parties vowed to challenge the reunification of minors with their spouses.
To end the debate, a bill was presented to Parliament to ban under 18s from marrying in Denmark and it won with a majority.
Despite the move to ban underage marriage, the law has allowed a loophole for couples who can provide a “compelling argument” for their union.
When the bill was first discussed in December, the minister for children’s and social affairs Mai Mercado said: “I don’t agree that this is symbolic and unnecessary. Entering into marriage is reserved for those who are of legal age.”