Commentary multiple marriages in germany: a small problem with a big effect

Heiko Maas no longer wants to recognize Islamic multiple marriages. That is actionism. The justice minister is bowing to the AfD.

How many would you like to have? Photo: Imago

The problem is marginal, but it lends itself perfectly to right-wing populist scaremongering. That’s why Justice Minister Heiko Maas has now announced that he will no longer recognize Muslim multiple marriages as a matter of principle. Before the upcoming federal elections, he does not want to offer the Alternative for Germany an open flank in this field.

However, this is pure actionism. After all, polygamy is already banned in Germany. But because in some Muslim-majority countries men can legally marry up to four women under certain circumstances, German authorities have always been confronted with the question of how to deal with maintenance and inheritance issues when such families have immigrated to Germany.

So far, the attitude has been to look at the specific individual case and, above all, not to punish the women for having entered into such a union in their home country. The German state does not suffer any disadvantages from this: Inheritance or maintenance, for example, could previously be divided among different women. To categorically put a stop to this would be at the expense of the women concerned and their legal security. However, as I said, these are only very few cases.

The case is somewhat different in the case of so-called "child marriages", which are said to have been recorded increasingly among refugees from Syria, if one believes a report by the Bild-Zeitung, which made inquiries at various state authorities in Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. Out of concern for their underage daughters, some parents would have married them off to an older partner before fleeing.

Germany does not have to recognize these unions, certainly not if they were entered into under duress. But here, too, the legal protection of those affected should take precedence – and not the fear of possible right-wing populist agitation, to which people are rushing to cave in.

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