Victims in a country other than Sweden
Honour-based violence and oppression can occur both in Sweden and abroad. Children and young people who are residents of Sweden, either through citizenship or by virtue of a permit, can get help in accordance with Swedish legislation even if they are victims abroad. There is also international legislation that aims to protect people against honour-based violence and oppression. Human rights are a common starting point that is established in international law, and apply to all people, no matter where they are in the world.
A transnational dimension
Honour-based crime has a clear transnational dimension. For example, children may be sent abroad, often to their parents’ country of origin, to be married off, subjected to genital mutilation or violated as a result of what is commonly known as ‘rehabilitation trips’. The latter involves sending children to relatives in their parents’ country of origin, to be brought up in accordance with the honour standards of their family and relatives. What children experience during such journeys constitutes a form of honour-based oppression, but it can also involve violence and threats to children in connection with raising them. This kind of treatment is a serious violation of the child’s human rights.
The transnational dimension of honour-based crime can also apply to adults. For example, women who are forced to marry may be left abroad with no means of returning to Sweden on their own. A woman living in an honour context may be denied the right to manage her own finances, and may be deprived of her passport or other travel documents upon arrival in her husband’s home country. Such actions also constitute serious violations of victims’ human rights.
It is important to remember that victims of honour-based violence and oppression abroad may find it particularly hard to break free and get help, as they may be largely at the mercy of family and relatives abroad. Swedish authorities can help in various ways, but even if the victim is helped to solve practical problems, they may need support for a long time afterwards to cope with everyday life free from oppression.
Marriages conducted abroad
If someone takes a child abroad – or plans to do so – with the intention of marrying them off, they are guilty of a crime called deception for the purpose of marriage abroad. The same applies to anyone who deceives an adult into travelling to another country to be married off against their will. The penalty for deception for the purpose of marriage is imprisonment for up to two years.
Anyone who, through unlawful coercion or by taking advantage of someone’s vulnerability, induces someone to enter into a marriage-like union or a marriage that is valid in the state where it is conducted may be convicted of the offence of forced marriage under Swedish law. The penalty for forced marriage is imprisonment for a maximum of four years. If the person being married off is under 18 years of age, the perpetrators can be sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum of four years instead of being sentenced for child marriage crime. In the case of child marriage crime, there is no requirement for coercion or abuse. Anyone who induces or allows a child to be married off in any other way may also be convicted of the offence.
These offences can therefore be committed even if the marriage takes place in another country to which the child or vulnerable person has been taken. In Sweden, the possibility for children to obtain an exemption to get married and the possibility of recognising foreign child marriages have also been removed. There is thus a ban in Sweden on recognising foreign child marriages.
Child marriage crimes, forced marriage and deception for the purpose of marriage abroad are subsidiary to the crime of people trafficking. This means that the authorities must always assess whether the criminal acts committed are in fact a form of people trafficking and, if so, prosecute for the trafficking offence instead of one of the other offences.
All forms of genital mutilation of girls and women have been forbidden in Sweden since 1982. In 1999, the legislation was tightened so that a person can be convicted in Sweden even if the offence of genital mutilation was committed abroad.
Swedish authorities have a responsibility to care for girls and women who have been subjected to genital mutilation, regardless of where in the world the abuse has taken place. Swedish authorities must also work to prevent genital mutilation by drawing attention to those at risk of being subjected to it. If there is a suspicion that someone is at risk of being subjected to genital mutilation, for example, an outward travel ban may be issued so that the child cannot be taken abroad to be subjected to genital mutilation there.
No double criminality requirement
For honour-based crimes such as genital mutilation and honour-based oppression, the criminal act does not need to be criminalised in the country where it is committed. It is sufficient for the crime to be covered by Swedish law as long as the victim has a connection to Sweden when the crime is committed. The same applies to child marriage crimes and forced marriage. Honour-based crime is thus exempted from the double criminality requirement which otherwise largely applies to crimes committed abroad.
Help and support abroad
If you or someone you know is in a situation involving honour-based violence and oppression abroad, you can seek help from the Swedish Foreign Service. For example, you may have been taken abroad and someone is planning to marry you off or subject you to genital mutilation.
The Swedish Foreign Service
Swedish Foreign Service consists of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sweden’s embassies and consulates in other countries. Together, the missions abroad play an important role in providing consular assistance and advice to people who find themselves in an emergency situation abroad, such as being the victim of a crime. This means, for example, that they can help Swedish citizens and people living in Sweden if they are held abroad against their will.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for Sweden’s relations with other countries and international organisations. Swedish embassies and consulates abroad can help victims of crime by issuing passports, transferring money, and contacting relatives and authorities in Sweden. If Sweden does not have an embassy or consulate in the country where you are, you can contact the embassy of another EU country for help.
Conditions and regulations may differ from country to country, and this may affect the consular assistance that the Swedish Foreign Service can provide. However, the common factor is that the service should be provided in a consistent, equal and fair manner, regardless of the country you are in.
There is a guide to the consular services available in the event of an emergency abroad. This is also available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs primarily has a coordinating role, and acts as a link between the victim abroad and the authorities in Sweden.
You can contact the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, an embassy or a consulate for consular matters. Contact details and more information can be found via the link below.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has a 24-hour helpline, UD-jour. You can call the helpline in the event of urgent consular emergencies when you cannot get in touch with an embassy or a consulate. Call 08-405 50 05.
If you are calling from Sweden, you can reach the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Consular Unit via the Government Offices’ switchboard during office hours on 08-405 10 00.
Embassies and consulates
You can find a list of Swedish embassies and consulates via the link below. They are sorted alphabetically by country.
Who can get help?
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Sweden’s embassies and consulates work to help people who are – or have been – subjected to family-related violence and threats during a stay abroad. This often involves situations where children and young people have been taken abroad and are subjected to honour-based violence and oppression without the possibility of returning to Sweden themselves.
As well as Swedish citizens living in Sweden, refugees, stateless persons and, in some cases, foreign citizens living in Sweden or Swedish citizens living abroad can also receive assistance from Sweden’s missions abroad.
If you or someone you know is detained abroad and is subjected to or at risk of being subjected to any form of honour-based violence and oppression, you can contact the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the embassy or the consulate to find out what help is available.
Both children and adults who have been subjected to – or risk being subjected to – honour-based violence and oppression abroad can contact a mission abroad for advice.
What help is available?
If you have been subjected to – or risk being subjected to – honour-based crime abroad, you can get help from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, embassies or consulates to get you back to Sweden. The Swedish Foreign Service can help with issuing a temporary or regular passport. The missions abroad can also help you to contact relatives, authorities, insurance companies and medical services in Sweden, as well as assisting you with dealing with local authorities abroad.
You can get financial help in the form of loans to travel home or advice on how to transfer money from your own accounts to pay for a trip home. You can also get help obtaining a ‘counsel for the injured party’, i.e. a legal representative to help you with any legal proceedings.
The missions abroad will work with the authorities in Sweden to get you the help you need to return to Sweden.
What can you do yourself?
If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should – if possible – report the crime to the police in the place where you are. If you are injured, you should seek treatment at the nearest hospital or other healthcare facility. This may also be useful because the injuries will then be documented.
GAPF Support Line
The national association Glöm Aldrig Pela och Fadime (‘Never Forget Pela and Fadime’, GAPF) offers support and advice via its support line. It is open 24 hours a day, every day of the week, all year round. Victims, relatives and professionals can contact the support line for help. The support line is staffed by people with experience of dealing with those who are restricted by honour norms. Calls are free, you can remain anonymous, and support staff have a duty of confidentiality.
Linnamottagningen is a centre for young people who have been victims of honour-based violence and oppression, or who have been married off or are at risk of being married off against their will. The centre can provide both emergency and long-term help. The centre has expertise in LGBTQI and cultural issues, and can also provide advice to professionals who come into contact with victims. The centre has a national hotline.
Women's Rights (Kvinnors Rätt) is a non-profit organisation that aims to help girls, boys and women who have been victims of intimate partner violence and honour-based violence and oppression.
Somaya women's shelter and young women's shelter
Somaya women’s shelter and young women’s shelter is a non-profit organisation that supports girls, women and LGBTQI people with a foreign background who are victims of intimate partner violence or who live in an honour context. Somaya’s operations are multilingual and include a support line, a support chat service, sheltered accommodation and an activity centre. The staff have extensive experience of helping people who need protection or to escape from violence and oppression.
Terrafem is a non-profit organisation that works to ensure girls and women have the right to live their lives free from men’s violence. Terrafem operates a national hotline for girls and women of foreign origin, and has contact with victims from different countries and in different languages. Terrafem also operates a legal hotline and a women’s helpline.
Tjejers Rätt i Samhället ("Girls' Rights in Society"), TRIS
TRIS is a non-profit organisation that works to combat honour-based violence and oppression. TRIS offers help to adults, children and young people who are subjected to or at risk of being subjected to honour-based violence and oppression. TRIS has specific expertise in dealing with children and young people with intellectual disabilities. TRIS operates a support line, and can also offer temporary or sheltered accommodation for victims.
RFSL Support Service
The Support Service operated by the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL) provides support for LGBTQ people who have been subjected to harassment, threats or violence. Relatives and friends of LGBTQ people who are victims of violence and professionals who come into contact with the target group can also get in touch. Calls to the support centre are free, and can be made anonymously.
The "Love is free" support chat service
Save the Children Sweden operates a support chat service called ‘Kärleken är fri’ (‘Love is Free’). The service is run by volunteers, for children and young people who need support and advice on a wide range of honour-based issues. Children and young people can ask questions about rights, honour-based violence and oppression, restrictions and forced marriage, among other issues.
The Amel Clinic
The Amel Clinic at Söder Hospital in Stockholm is for girls and women who have been subjected to genital mutilation. The clinic is staffed by women, and everyone is bound by a duty confidentiality.
The Vulva Clinic
The Vulva Clinic at Angered Hospital in Gothenburg is for patients who have been subjected to female genital mutilation.
Information for professionals
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has a section for family conflict issues that can assist professionals in cases of family-related violence such as honour-based crime. The section can be contacted on 08-405 55 88.
In the case of children, the Ministry relies on cooperation with social services in the municipality where the child lives. Social services can carry out investigations, and social services’ consent is needed to enable the Ministry to deal with matters such as issuing a provisional passport without the consent of a guardian.
Find out more
You can find more information about the Swedish Foreign Service and the support it provides in cases of honour-based violence and oppression abroad on the Foreign Service’s online pages about family-related coercion.
What does the law say?
There is both international and national legislation aimed at protecting children, young people and adults from violence and oppression. Children and young people have the same rights as adults, but they often do not have the same opportunities as adults to defend their own rights. This is why children and young people are regarded as particularly vulnerable in legislation.
Below is a brief description of some of the international legislation in this area, with links to the various acts for more detailed information.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, came into force in Sweden on 1 August 2014. The main aims of the Convention are to protect women from all forms of violence, and to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The concept of women also includes girls under the age of 18. Domestic violence refers to physical, sexual, mental or economic violence committed within the family or in the home.
In terms of honour-based crimes, the Convention states that child marriage and forced marriage shall be prohibited. Marriages concluded under force must be voidable, annulled or dissolved without undue burden being placed on the victim. State Parties must ensure that intentional acts of physical or sexual violence, serious violations of personal integrity due to threats or coercion, and female genital mutilation are punishable.
Articles 12 and 42 of the Convention state that culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called honour cannot be used as an argument to justify an act of violence.
The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights
According to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. This applies to everyone, children and adults alike.
The Universal Declaration is a framework for the human rights work of State Parties. Almost every country in the world has accepted the Declaration as a contract between its government and its people. The Swedish Government is ultimately responsible for ensuring that our human rights are respected.
The Declaration consists of 30 articles dealing with fundamental and universal rights and freedoms. Among the articles in the Declaration, particular mention should be made of Article 16 on the right of adults to marry and found a family and the right of men and women to enjoy equal rights in all aspects of marriage, from its initiation to its continuation and its dissolution. Marriage may only be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties.
The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) establishes a fundamental obligation for signatory states to guarantee each individual the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention. These rights include the right to life, the right to liberty and security of person, the right to the protection of private and family life, and the right to marry.
The EU Victims’ Rights Directive
Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime was adopted on 25 October 2012. The aim of the Directive is to ensure that victims of crime receive information, support and protection, and that they can be involved in criminal proceedings that relate to them. According to the Directive, victims of crime should be recognised and treated with respect and consideration based on their individual circumstances, and in a professional and non-discriminatory manner.
The Hague Conventions and the Brussels Regulations
A number of international conventions are relevant to honour-based crime abroad. You can find out more about some important international instruments via the links below.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, commonly known as the Child Rights Convention, is an international legal instrument that applies to all children. Children are all people under the age of 18.
All children have the same rights and equal value. This applies regardless of where the child comes from, their religion or other circumstances.
The principle of the best interests of the child is a central starting point, and means that what is best for the child should be taken into account in all matters concerning the child.
According to the Convention, all children have the right to:
- a life and integrity of their own,
- freedom, leisure, education and development,
- a private life and the ability to choose who they want to be with,
- protection against all forms of physical and psychological violence,
- protection against traditional practices that harm children, and
- influence over their lives and involvement in decisions that affect them.