The first federal study of its kind found 3,443 recorded cases in 2008 – the most recent year with sufficient data – in which people living in Germany were forced to wed or threatened with a forced marriage.
Most were between the ages of 18 and 21, although nearly a third of them were under the age of 17.
Almost all were female and the children of staunchly religious immigrant families, most frequently from countries including Turkey, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Those who force their own children to marry someone they don’t love, or a perfect stranger, against their will are committing a brutal act of violence against them,” Family Minister Kristina Schroeder said, presenting the study funded by her ministry.
More than half were beaten or otherwise physically abused to convince them to marry, while more than one in four were threatened with weapons or told they would be killed if they did not go through with the marriage.
Forty-four percent of the people at threat or subjected to forced marriages held German passports.
The study was carried out by a private foundation and a women’s rights organization based on data provided by victims help centers, schools and immigrant associations.
Germany last year passed legislation against forced marriages, making it a criminal act punishable by up to five years in prison and providing means for victims taken abroad to return to Germany.
Previously, the practice had been considered under the law as a particularly severe form of coercion.