A new report shows that thousands of young women and girls in Germany are victims of forced marriages every year.
Most of the victims come from Muslim families; many have been threatened with violence and even death.
The revelations have shocked the German public and will add to the ongoing debate in Germany over the question of Muslim immigration and the establishment of a parallel Islamic society there. The revelations will intensify an ongoing debate in Germany over Muslim immigration and the role of Islam there.
The 160-page report, entitled, "Forced Marriages in Germany: Numbers and Analysis of Counseling Cases," was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of the Family, and made public at a news conference in Berlin on November 9.
The problem of forced marriage is evidently far more widespread than previously believed.
The study -- the first and most detailed of its kind in Germany -- reveals that in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 3,443 people sought help at counseling and social services centers across the country because they were being, or already had been, forced into marriage.
The vast majority of these victims are women or girls, although 6% are young men. Almost one-third of those forced into marriage in Germany were 17 years old or younger. Another 40% were between the ages of 18 and 21.
Many of the victims experienced extreme violence. More than half (70%) were beaten or otherwise physically abused to convince them to marry, and 27% were threatened with weapons or with death if they did not go through with the forced marriage.
The vast majority -- 83.4% -- of the victims of forced marriages were from Muslim households. Another 10% were Yazidi (a Kurdish religion) and 3.4% were Christians.
Almost all of the victims were from immigrant families, although one-third of the women and girls were born in Germany. The largest share of victims were from Turkey (23%) followed by Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Iraq and Afghanistan.
44% of the people threatened, or subjected to forced marriage, hold German passports.
The victims of forced marriage said it was their fathers who exerted the most pressure on them. The report says the educational level of the victims' fathers was below average, and nearly 90% of the victims' mothers had no formal education. In just over 6% of the cases the fathers had graduated from high school or had professional training.
The report says the primary motive for forced marriages is to "protect the image" of the family. In the case of women and girls, forced marriages are often used to stop unwanted friendships; in the case of boys, it was a reaction to the homosexuality of a child, the report says.
Germany is home to an estimated 4.3 million Muslims, including some 3.5 million Turks. Many Germans are concerned about the emergence of a parallel Muslim society in the country.
A book published in September 2011 revealed that the spread of Islamic Sharia law in Germany is far more advanced than previously thought, and that German authorities are "powerless" to do anything about the Muslim shadow justice system in Germany.
Another 236-page book, entitled "Judges Without Law: Islamic Parallel Justice Endangers Our Constitutional State," which was authored by Joachim Wagner, a German legal expert and former investigative journalist for ARD German public television, says Sharia courts are now operating in all of Germany's big cities.
This "parallel justice system" is undermining the rule of law in Germany, Wagner says, because Muslim arbiters-cum-imams are settling criminal cases out of court without the involvement of German prosecutors or lawyers before law enforcement can bring the cases to a German court.
Settlements reached by the Muslim mediators often mean perpetrators are able to avoid long prison sentences, while victims receive large sums in compensation or have their debts cancelled, in line with Sharia law, according to Wagner. In return, they are required to make sure their testimony in court does not lead to a conviction.
German police do investigate cases involving serious crimes. But parallel to that, special Muslim arbitrators, also known as "peace judges," are commissioned by the families concerned to mediate and reach an out-of-court settlement.
Germans have also been riled by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly warned Turkish immigrants against integrating into German society and has said that Germany's insistence that immigrants who want to live in Germany must learn the German language is "against human rights."
In October 2010, the German government announced a new measure that would punish immigrants in Germany who do not attend "integration courses" to help them assimilate into German society. The law calls on authorities to verify that immigrants applying to extend their stay in Germany have taken German language classes as well as a course on German values and laws. Failure to follow these courses would mean the applicant's request could be denied.
In July 2011, an additional new law went into effect in Germany making it a criminal act punishable by up to five years in prison for people who force others into marriage. Forced marriage had already been ruled illegal under federal statutes that outlaw aggravated coercion, but the new law makes the prohibition more specific.
In Berlin, Germany's Family Minister Kristina Schröder said: "Those who force their children against their will to marry someone they do not love, or who is a complete stranger, are committing brutal violence against them."
In a country stifled by decades of multicultural ideology, however, it remains to be seen whether Germany's political and judicial establishment will actually enforce the law.