Forced marriage law extension likely

People’s Party (ÖVP) State Secretary Sebastian Kurz has called for a reform of Austria’s anti-forced marriage law.

Forced marriages are not a criminal offence under the current regulations if carried out abroad. Austrians and people living in Austria are facing legal consequences for such actions only if this kind of marriage occurs within the country’s borders.

Kurz – who took office as Austria’s first state secretary for integration in April – said yesterday (Sun): “Forced marriages are criminal acts and must not be tolerated.” The ÖVP Vienna boss told Die Presse and radio station Ö1 he was optimistic about coming to an agreement with ÖVP Justice Minister Beatrix Karl.

The state secretary claimed chances were high that Karl backed his suggestion of changing federal law to allow prosecutors to press charges against Austrians over forced marriages abroad. People caught organising forced marriages in Austria can be jailed for up to five years. An extension of the regulation would need the support of the whole cabinet of ministers of ÖVP and the Social Democrats (SPÖ). Lower Austrian ÖVP Governor Erwin Pröll made headlines recently by calling for an end to the mandatory accord in the government over draft bills to get urgently needed reforms underway.

Kurz recently also suggested all kinds of changes to the federal law and Austria’s constitution should be examined considering their effects on younger generations before a possible agreement in parliament. The state secretary said a so-called generations check should highlight if young people were forced to come up for extra costs caused by new laws such as pension system reforms and changes to Austria’s system of healthcare and social benefits.

Earlier this month, some of the 100 celebrities participating in a new initiative created by Kurz started visiting schools across the country. All of the singers, actors and athletes participating in the “Zusammen Österreich” campaign have a migratory background, meaning that they or their families migrated to Austria. Kurz said the stars were role models of successful integration into the society. The initiative attempts to increase young immigrants’ motivation in making it in Austria as more and more Austrians are, according to surveys, concerned of a constant widening of the gap between themselves and parallel societies allegedly created by foreigners living in the country.