Dutch police criticised for allegedly helping two underage Muslims to marry

Ceremony arranged so bride could avoid arranged marriage in Pakistan

Police in Amsterdam were under fire last night for allegedly helping two young underage Muslims to marry in the Netherlands – so the bride could avoid being sent back to her family’s native Pakistan for a traditional arranged marriage to her cousin.

Although they denied last night that they had acted as “wedding planners” or even as “mediators”, a police spokesman confirmed that the girl had been collected by officers “directly from school” and delivered under escort to the secret location where the wedding had taken place.

The ages of the couple have not been revealed, but it’s understood the bride did secure the consent of her parents to marry her Pakistani-Hindustani boyfriend, on condition they would renew their wedding vows in the usual Dutch civil ceremony when they turn 18.

Under Dutch law, a marriage is only legal when there has been a civil ceremony. Church marriages are not the norm and are regarded as purely ceremonial.


Without parental consent, the girl would have been regarded has having “dishonoured” her family by refusing to accept the husband chosen for her under the traditional arrangement and might have become an outcast.

Physical abuse
Many women in similar circumstances are subjected to physical abuse, say police and social workers who routinely check schools in Muslim areas every year to ensure that girls from 15 up return to class after the summer holidays.

Despite the fact they enabled this young bride to choose her own husband, the police were criticised last night by Femmes for Freedom, which advocates women’s rights and opposes forced marriage, honour killing, violence against women and marital captivity.

The organisation said the danger was that the police had simply helped the underage bride, too young to make an informed decision, choose one arranged marriage in the Netherlands rather than another in Pakistan. “The police . . . have not only broken the law, they have colluded in depriving this girl of her rights,” said spokesperson Shirin Musa.

“At such a young age there is as much of a possibility that she will be trapped in this marriage as she would be in an arranged one. She may have consented to it, but she cannot know what will happen in the future. And if it goes wrong, she cannot separate from her husband unless he agrees to a divorce.”

The department of justice in The Hague says it believes that more than a dozen teenage girls are forced into arranged marriages every year.

Muslim groups say “arranged” marriages are the cultural norm – and are not the same as “forced” marriages.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court