France: The existence of cases in which young women have been kidnapped and taken abroad by force to be married there or circumcised against their will; whether some of these kidnappings were perpetrated by influential foreigners who have diplomatic passports; state protection provided [FRA104026.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. General Background

On 14 April 2009, as cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Secretary of State for Solidarity of the government of France stated that, according to anonymous associations, about [translation] "70,000 adolescent females between 10 and 18 years old, living in France, are threatened with being united in marriage to a man against their will, and it is estimated that between 55,000 and 65,000 girls and women are mutilated or threatened with mutilation."

2. Forced Marriage

On its Internet site, the national federal in France called Group for the Abolition of Sexual Mutilation, of Forced Marriages and of Other Harmful Traditional Practices to the Health of Women and Children (Groupe pour l'abolition des mutilations sexuelles, des mariages forcés et autres pratiques traditionnelles néfastes à la santé des femmes et des enfants, GAMS) (GAMS n.d.a) points out that, among the young girls that it supervises, there are some who are born in France but who were sent [translation] "abroad" when they were very young, with little or no education," to be subjected to a "forced marriage" there before being brought back to France (GAMS n.d.b). In addition, in an article posted on the Internet site of the Parisian daily Libération, a group of individuals who support women and young girls who are victims of honour crimes and forced marriages states that victims of forced marriages are often sent by force to the country of origin of their parents and [translation] "are married there according to tradition or even 'put on the right track'" (group of individuals 21 June 2010). In addition, the association Voices of Women (Voix de femmes) claims that forced marriage is [translation] "often preceded by many repeated death threats, by serious voluntary violence, and by kidnapping and confinement in France and/or with a view to being sent abroad by force" (Voix de femmes n.d.a). Voix de femmes is an NGO that works to fight forced marriage, said to be an "honour" crime, as well as any other violence related to controlling romantic choice and sexuality (Voix de femmes n.d.b). However, the three sources mentioned in this paragraph did not provide information about the number of young girls who have been victims of these practices.

In October 2011, the AFP stated that three men of Tunisian origin, who were suspected of wanting to marry their 18-year-old sister by force in Tunisia, were sentenced to six months on a conditional sentence order by the correctional court of Lyon for [translation] "kidnapping, confining and hitting her" (19 Oct. 2011). According to two other media sources, the victim fled the family home in July 2011 to avoid a trip in Tunisia in which she was supposed to marry a cousin (Reuters 18 Oct. 2011; Le Point 18 Oct. 2011). In 2010, another of her sisters was subjected to a forced marriage in Tunisia before returning to France (AFP 19 Oct. 2011; Le Point 18 Oct. 2011).

On 23 June 2011, the Parisian daily L'Express stated that many female victims of forced marriage did not [translation] "necessarily" return to France. According to the French Movement for Family Planning (Mouvement français pour le planning familial, MFPF), which fights for the right to use contraception and the right to abortion, as well as against all forms of discrimination and violence against women, after they arrive in the country where the marriage is to be celebrated, sometimes young women have their administrative papers, such as the residency permit, identity card and passport, confiscated (MFPF n.d.). The MFPF alleges that, sometimes, they are subjected to blackmail and to threats by members of their family who go so far as to destroy their papers, in order to obstruct them and abandon them in that country (ibid.).

In 2010, a young 17-year-old girl was abandoned by her father in a village in the region of Nador in Morocco, to be married by force there (ibid.). The MFPF states that it requested assistance from the French consulate to facilitate her repatriation, without, however, specifying whether this occurred (ibid.). Another young 18-year-old girl saw her papers confiscated by her mother, who abandoned her in a village in Tunisia (ibid.). For refusing to marry, she stated that she was [translation] "beaten" by her mother and her brothers; the source did not specify, however, when this incident took place or whether the young girl was repatriated (ibid.). Further information concerning the incidents recounted above could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

2.1. French Laws Concerning Forced Marriage

According to article 146 of the French Civil Code (Code civil), [translation] "a marriage does not exist without consent" (2011). Furthermore, article 34 of the 9 July 2010 law, related to violence specifically against women, states:

[translation]

The French consular authorities take the adapted measures to ensure, with their consent, the return to France of people of French nationality or who live regularly in France, when these people were victims abroad of voluntary violence or sexual assault committed in a forced marriage or because of their refusal to submit to a forced marriage. (France 2010)

Information on the application of this law could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

2.2. Measures that Victims of Forced Marriages May Take

In a notice published on 9 July 2008, the French Ministry of Justice and Freedoms advised all individuals susceptible of being subjected to a forced marriage to inform an acquaintance, a friend, a social worker, a professor, a psychologist, an educator, an association or any other person who they trust. Anyone who needs [translation] "particular" protection may write to the children's judge if they are a minor or to the public prosecutor if they are of age (France 9 July 2008). In the case of a hasty trip, the individual may make a written request to be prohibited from exiting France by specifying to the prefecture her complete identity, as well as the date and time of the theft (ibid.). She may [translation] "also alert, at the last moment, customs or the sky marshal" (ibid.). Before departure, it is recommended that the person possess [translation] "important" personal documents such as the identity card, residency permit, passport, education certificates, confirmation of "vitale" card [health insurance], and any other document containing information that could enable them to be tracked, such as the travel document or the destination address (ibid.). To return to France, the person abroad may contact the embassy or the French consulate in order to be issued a pass card if their papers are confiscated or lost (ibid.). Information on the practical application of these measures could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Furthermore, the NGO Voix de femmes manages a telephone answering service for victims of forced marriages (Voix de femmes n.d.c).

3. Circumcision

Information could not be found indicating whether, in France, some people had kidnapped young women to take them abroad by force to circumcise them there, among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, according to the results of an investigation conducted between 2007 and 2009 by researchers of the National Institute of Demographic Studies (Institut national d'études démographiques, INED), among the young girls who return to the country of origin of their parents, three girls out of 10 are likely to be subjected to [translation] "female sexual mutilation" (INED 29 Dec. 2010). Further corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

3.1. French Laws Concerning Circumcision

According to the GAMS federation, French law prohibits circumcision in France, as well as circumcision practiced abroad by French citizens or foreigners on a French or foreign victim, if they reside in France (GAMS n.d.c). Furthermore, professionals could be brought to justice for failing to assist an individual in danger when they do not signal to the authorities in charge of child protection the case of a potential victim of mutilation of which they are aware (ibid.). According to the group of individuals supporting victims of honour crimes and forced marriages, in 2006, French authorities modified article 113-7 of the French Penal Code (Code penal) in order to punish foreigners who practice circumcision on young girls who are not from France but whose usual residence is in France (21 June 2010). The official bulletin of the Ministry of Justice states the following about the changes made to the law on circumcision practiced abroad and on professional secrecy:

[translation]

3.1.1. Suppression of circumcision committed abroad

First, a new article 222-16-2 of the Penal Code states that in the case where crimes and offences under articles 222-8, 222-10 or 222-12 (violence that led to death, mutilation or total inability to work [incapacité totale de travail, ITT] (France 2012)] for more than eight days, which corresponds to the qualifications that may be retained for circumcision) are committed abroad on a minor victim who usually lives in France, the French law is applicable despite the provisions of article 113-7, which normally requires the victim to have French nationality.

...

These provisions will allow for prosecution when young girls of foreign nationality, but who usually live in France, are circumcised during holidays in their country of origin, with the complicity of their parents.

3.1.2. Reporting circumcision - for individuals subjected to professional secrecy

To encourage individuals to report circumcision, section 1o of article 226-14 of the Penal Code, which removes professional secrecy and, in particular, the physician's secrecy in cases of sexual assault on minors, now also includes "sexual mutilations." (France 19 Apr. 2006)

Information could not be found indicating whether influential foreigners exist who may have diplomatic passports and could have kidnapped young women in order to take them abroad by force, to marry them by force, or to have them circumcized against their will, among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 19 October 2011. "Mariage forcé : 3 frères condamnés." (Le Figaro) <http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2011/10/19/97001-20111019FILWWW00342-mariage-force-3-freres-condamnes.php> [Accessed 9 Mar. 2012]

_____. 14 April 2009. "Le gouvernement lance une campagne contre l'excision." (Libération) <http://www.liberation.fr/societe/0101561998-le-gouvernement-lance-une-campagne-contre-l-excision> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2012]

L'Express [Paris]. 23 June 2011. Benoît Magistrini. "Les mariages forcés reculent en France." <http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/les-mariages-forces-reculent-en-france_1005504.html> [Accessed 22 Feb. 2012]

France. 2012. Code pénal. (Legifrance) &lt;http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do; jsessionid=D36876C1E84F2F3D8925FF411FE25C75.tpdjo16v_2?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006181751&cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006070719&dateTexte =20120309> [Accessed 7 Mar. 2012]

_____. 2011. Code civil. (Legifrance) <http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do; jsessionid=A089E69A06C67C7F1FDC97D01187A182.tpdjo08v_1?idSectionTA=LEGISCTA000006136117&cidTexte= LEGITEXT000006070721&dateTexte=20120301> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2012]

_____. 2010. Loi n° 2010-769 du 9 July 2010 relative aux violences faites spécifiquement aux femmes, aux violences au sein des couples et aux incidences de ces dernières sur les enfants (1) (Legifrance) <http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000022454032&categorieLien=id> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2012]

_____. 9 July 2008. Ministère de la Justice et des Libertés. "Vous êtes victime d'un mariage forcé." Fiche n° 9. <http://www.justice.gouv.fr/aide-aux-victimes-10044/victime-de-faits-a-letranger-11144/vous-etes-victime-dun-mariage-force-15243.html> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2012]

_____. 19 April 2006. Circulaire présentant les dispositions de droit pénal et de procédure pénale de la loi n° 2006-399 du 4 avril 2006 renforçant la prévention et la répression des violences au sein du couple ou commises contre les mineurs. Bulletin officiel du ministère de la Justice n° 102 (1er avril au 30 juin 2006). <http://www.textes.justice.gouv.fr/art_pix/102-CRIM-c.pdf> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2012]

Group of individuals who support victims of honour crimes and forced marriages. 21 June 2010. "Mariages forcés : lutter par-delà les frontières." (Libération) <http://www.liberation.fr/societe/0101642468-mariages-forces-lutter-par-dela-les-frontieres> [Accessed 23 Feb. 2012]

Groupe pour l'abolition des mutilations sexuelles, des mariages forcés et autres pratiques traditionnelles néfastes à la santé des femmes et des enfants (GAMS). N.d.a. "Qui sommes-nous?" <http://www.federationgams.org/presentation.php> [Accessed 6 Mar. 2012]

_____. N.d.b. "Que sont les mariages forcés?" <http://www.federationgams.org/mf.php> [Accessed 27 Feb. 2012]

_____. N.d.c. "Les textes législatifs." <http://www.federationgams.org/legislation_msf.php> [Accessed 27 Feb. 2012]

Institut national d'études démographiques (INED). 29 December 2010. "Les mutilations sexuelles féminines en France : premiers résultats de l'enquête Excision et Handicap (EXH)." <http://www.ined.fr/fr/tout_savoir_population/ fiches_actualite/mutilations_sexuelles_feminines_france/> [Accessed 9 Mar. 2012]

Mouvement français pour le planning familial (MFPF). N.d. "General Recommendation/Comment on Harmful Practices Affecting Girls Under Eighteen Years Old." (United Nations - Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) <http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/cedaw_crc_contributions/ PlanningFamilial.pdf> [Accessed 16 Mar. 2012]

Le Point [Paris]. 18 October 2011. "Trois frères enlèvent leur sœur pour la marier." <http://www.lepoint.fr/societe/trois-freres-enlevent-leur-soeur-pour-la-marier-18-10-2011-1386209_23.php> [Accessed 9 Mar. 2012]

Reuters. 18 October 2011. "Mariage forcé : trois frères condamnés à six mois de prison avec sursis." (20 minutes) <http://www.20minutes.fr/ledirect/808262/mariage-force-trois-freres-condamnes-six-mois-prison-sursis> [Accessed 8 Mar. 2012]

Voix de femmes. N.d.a. "Ce que dit la loi." <http://www.association-voixdefemmes.fr/de-quoi-parle-t-on-__4_que-dit-la-loi_24.html> [Accessed 28 Feb. 2012]

_____. N.d.b. "Objectifs." <http://www.association-voixdefemmes.fr/qui-sommes-nous-__12_objectifs-_44.html> [Accessed 7 Mar. 2012]

_____. N.d.c. "Ligne d'écoute." <http://www.association-voixdefemmes.fr/ecoute-__1_ligne-d-ecoute_39.html> [Accessed 16 Mar. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful: Conseil national d'information sur les droits des femmes et des familles; Femmes solidaires; Groupe pour l'abolition des mutilations sexuelles, des mariages forcés et autres pratiques traditionnelles néfastes à la santé des femmes et des enfants; Mouvement français pour le planning familial; and Voix de femmes.

Internet sites, including: Afrik.com, Afrol News, AllAfrica.com, Association de protection de l'enfance, British Broadcasting Corporation, Conseil de l'Europe, Défenseur des enfants, Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme, Femmes méditerranéennes, France – Haut Conseil à l'intégration, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Institut Panos Paris, Ligue du droit international des femmes, Ni putes ni soumises, Organisation internationale de la francophonie, Le Parisien, Le Post, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, United Nations Children's Fund.