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Equality minister Maria Arnholm (FP). Photo: Maria Repitsch/Sveriges Radio
Controversial Two-Year rule

Imported bride rule to stay

Equality minister Maria Arnholm says she wants to keep the controversial two-year deportation rule of so-called "mail-order brides," writes Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. The time law states that women whose relationship with their Swedish husband breaks down inside a two-year period will be deported back to their native country.

However, campaigners, including women's rights organisations and a government appointed investigator, say a large number of women who marry a Swede are locked in an abusive relationship and the timeframe is used as a loophole by men who bring over numerous women from abroad.

Equality minister Maria Arnholm told SvD on Saturday, "I support the two-year rule. I think it serves its purpose. It makes it easy and possible for people who fall in love quickly to live together and live in the same country. I know that many appreciate it. If you remove it, it would have consequences."

The abuse and ill-treatment of women from abroad who move to Sweden because of a relationship with a Swedish man is seen as a growing problem here. 600 women and children contacted women's shelter groups in 2011. The country with the highest percentage of women brought to Sweden by Swedish men is Thailand, and the Thai embassy in Stockholm has a hotline for ill-treated women.

The Centre Party's women's association has long demanded the abolition of the two-year rule from immigration law. "We now call on the new Equality Minister Maria Arnholm to push for immediate action against the the practice of wife importing which exposes thousands of women," urged Gunilla Hjelm last month.

Maria Arnholm says that she agrees that there are problems with the rule. " It may not be a protective shell or a pretext for battered women to stay with their men. We must at all costs avoid the feeling that one gets thrown out of Sweden if you leave a man who beats you. But it does not lead me to conclude that the two-year rule should be abolished."

However, she is open to address other deficiencies in the law exposed by government investigator Eva Eriksson.

Last summer, Eva Eriksson, then the governor of Värmland, which has a high proportion of "imported" brides, handed over the results of her investigation to the government's former equality minister, Nyamko Sabuni. Eriksson called for an end to the two-year marriage annulment rule and said she wanted to focus on the men and their motives for bringing women here.

Eva Eriksson spoke to police, social services, hospital emergency wards and women's shelters in 91 municipalties and found that violence in these relationships was common.

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