Maximum punishment to be increased from nine months to two years
Dutch Minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin wants to deal more strictly with forced marriages.
In order to do so, the Minister is working on a legislative proposal targeting this form of coercion.
Under the proposed law, the term of imprisonment for forced marriages will be increased from nine months to two years, and in future the courts will also have the opportunity of imposing pre-trial detention.
Furthermore, the Public Prosecution Service will be able to exercise more investigative powers, such as the demand for access to traffic data (telephone and Internet) and the arrest of a person not caught in the act.
The legislative proposal will be submitted this spring to the various agencies – including the Council for the Judiciary and the Public Prosecution Service – for their advice and recommendations.
“An important accomplishment of our State under the rule of law is the freedom of the individual to choose his or her partner independently. Forced marriages are not in accordance with the Dutch legal system,” Hirsch Ballin said. The measures will also contribute in a preventative sense to the combating of forced marriages because they have a warning effect.
Although forced marriages are punishable in the Netherlands, the possibilities for prosecuting marriages coerced abroad are still limited. The Minister would like to change this by expanding the so-called extraterritorial jurisdiction. This will allow for more effective combating of marriage coercion committed abroad. Currently, Dutch citizens who commit marriage coercion abroad can only be prosecuted if the requirement of double criminality has been satisfied: there is only jurisdiction if the fact is also punishable in the country in which it was committed. Moreover, a foreign national with a permanent or temporary address in the Netherlands, cannot be prosecuted for a marriage coerced outside the Netherlands. This is about to change.
Increasing the maximum punishment from nine months to two years does not only apply to forced marriages, for that matter. It will also become possible to punish other serious forms of coercion more adequately, for example religious coercion. The legislative proposal changes the maximum punishment of the crime of coercion in general, and that comprises more than just forced marriages.