Sweden's board of Health and Welfare, in cooperation with the Migration Authority, released a pamphlet titled Information for one who is Married to a Child, intended to help guide men who marry underage girls through the Swedish welfare system.
Commentator and journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein reported on the new pamphlet and wrote on her Facebook page: "The irony is that in Syria, having sex with and impregnating a child leads to a 9-year stint in prison whereas Sweden rewards the same behavior with financial aid and a helpful pamphlet."
"We have chosen to legalize marriages between adults and children and thereby abandon the most vulnerable - young immigrant girls who are being robbed of their future under the watchful eye of the Swedish state," Hernroth-Rothstein wrote.
The pamphlet's introduction expresses opposition to the practice in principle: "Children have the right to be children and not to have the responsibility arising from a marriage. Children should go to school, educate themselves, develop as their own person, develop their own hobbies. Early marriages often lead to early parenting, which gives rise to increased risks for the child in both the short and the long term. Marrying early can also lead to physical and mental ill health, an increased risk of living in poverty or being subjected to oppression and violence."
Later the pamphlet goes on to say, "It is violent to have sex with children under 15 years of age. In Sweden it is criminal to have sex with someone under the age of 15. This also applies if you are married and even if you have children together. Children under the age of 15 have an absolute right to be protected from sexual acts. Anyone who has sexual intercourse or conducts other sexual acts with a child is guilty of sexual offenses. The rules exist to protect the child."
The pamphlet advises welfare-seekers how to circumvent those protections to be eligible for state assistance: "Social services may suggest that you do not live together for a shorter or longer period."
Although the brochure prohibits intercourse or living with persons under the age of 15, thus not contradicting Swedish law's age of consent, Hernroth-Rothstein explains that "technically it...'recommends against' having sex with an underage child BUT nowhere in the pamphlet does it say what will happen if you have sex with a child, nor does it pose any threats against the person who chooses to have sex with a child." The pamphlet calls such acts "inappropriate".
"It should also be noted that, just in the past two weeks, there was a comprehensive vote to outlaw child marriages and the vote did NOT pass, so little is done to protect the children (and they are always girls, btw)," noted Hernroth-Rothstein.