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Norway and Article 4
A Triangle of Partnership and Solidarity



"No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms."

Slavery has not been any noticeable problem in Norway since the Atlantic slavetrade ceased in the late eighteenth century.

This is stated in the Norwegian penal code 225. " The person, who causes or is instrumental in, that another person is brought into bondage, will be punished by imprisonment from 5 years until 21 years. In the same way will the person be punished who engage in or contribute to slavetrade or transportation of slaves or persons set for slavetrade." There are also other sections in the penal code prohibiting crimes committed against the security of person, 222-227.

But even though these subsections are laid down in Norwegian laws, there are still certain varieties of enforced labour exercised in Norway. This concerns among other things compulsory military service, or services enforced on persons who deny military service from reasons of conscience. Neither are duties which may be imposed due to needs in the society and labour or services which are part of customary civic duties, affected by the points mentioned above.

Compulsory military service is a duty to participate in fundamental military training, keep up this training and take part in military operations during war. Men in Norway are liable for military service from the age of 19 to 44. In case a war is going on, the length of time of the compulsory military service may increase to the age of 55. Those excused from military service in times of peace because of firm beliefs, are able to choose between two kinds of penalties; imprisonment from about 3 months to 3 years, or hard labour out of prison , which means civil services. If they refuse the last "option", they are bound to end up with the first one.

"Modern versions of slavery" is to a certain extent still in force in Norway, e.g. prostitution and debtors' prison.

Although Norwegian laws state that prostitution is illegal, it is a known fact that this activity is more or less carried on in the hidden. The penal code 206 states: "The person who delude someone into fornication as an occupation, or to continue this kind of occupation, will be punished by imprisonment up to 2 years." Many prostitutes are also drug addicts, and the dependence on drugs is the main reason behind their prostitution. Pimps know how to turn this to their accounts, and because if this many prostitutes become slaves of their pimps.

Debtors' prison has also certain resemblances to slavery. The expression "slaves of debt " is often used to characterise people who one way or another has got themselves into a very difficult financial situation. They become "slaves of the bank", and they often have to work day and night to repay their debts. But despite of this, debtors' prison and prostitution cannot be denoted as slavery, because it is more or less a result of your own actions.

Compulsory marriage is a well known problem in different Moslim countries and also within immigration communities in Norway. Mostly girls from the immigration societies are affected by this custom, but also young men are being forced into marriages. Honour is very important to Pakistani men, that means being respected by fellow countrymen and equals. A man is not a man if he does not have the ability to control his women's chastity. The women are the "bearers of the honour ", and it is the man who decides how they shall dress, who they are permitted to talk to and where they are allowed to go. The women are obligated to act in accordance with the man's principles. The result is that the girls find themselves in a strait-jacket, and their lives are poled out.

An amendment in the Norwegian marriage code was made in 1995, and to make young immigrants aware of the fact that there is a way out of their fatal situation, it is important that this law is known. It is stated in 16 section 3: "Each partner may raise action to declare the matrimony invalid in case he or she has been forced to conclude the marriage by illegal behaviour", and section 5: "If a marriage is carried out despite the fact that one or both partners were without legal ability to act, the suit to declare the matrimony illegal may be raised within 6 months after the marriage".

But in spite of this law there are still many cases of forced marriage, where young immigrants in Norway are being sent to the native country of their ancestors, to be married to a complete stranger. It is on the other hand important to be able to draw a line between forced marriages, where one or both partners do not have anything to say, and organized marriages, where the partners are heard and where their opinions are respected. A perfectly clear boundary between these two marriages is still in some cases hard to see.

Forced marriage may be perceived as a form of slavery or servitude, because of the fact that the girls are brought to different Muslim countries to live the rest of their lives in submissiveness to their husbands, and under his control and will. But in spite of it all just a small group of archconservative immigrants go all the way and marries their children away by using force.

In spite of these varieties of enforced life situations, I think we may say that slavery and servitude are no considerable problems in Norway.

Written by: Silje Udjus Johansen, 2AF





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