No, the Federal Constitutional Court did not overturn the ban on child marriages on Wednesday, as quickly postulated by those who were particularly excited on social media. The request from Karlsruhe to the federal government to revise the law to combat child marriages still contains a problematic signal.

Because the verdict lacks the self-confidence that would be necessary to defend liberal values ​​and the achievements of civilization. And to define red lines where they are in danger.

What happened? In 2015, a 21-year-old Syrian married a 14-year-old before a Sharia court in his home country. During the course of the civil war, the couple fled to Germany. The youth welfare office placed the minors in a youth welfare facility and ordered guardianship. The husband appealed against this decision.

Now it is clear: A strict age limit of 16 years for marriage is in principle permissible. However, the Federal Constitutional Court considers the present law to be “disproportionate” – because neither maintenance regulations have been made nor has it been ensured that couples who married when they were minors can stick to their marriage when they reach majority.

Actually, it’s quite simple: If a 14-year-old is married, it’s not marriage, it’s child abuse. Anyone who cares about human rights should outlaw such practices and legally prevent them. It should be the task of youth welfare offices to free victims from such situations – even against their will, which may be articulated at the moment – ​​and to enable them to start again.

The Federal Constitutional Court could have underlined this unequivocally. Instead, the judgment acts like a softening when it criticizes a “constitutionally unjustified interference with the freedom to marry”.

And that, although Karlsruhe is probably also about effective victim protection. Critics of the previous legal situation have long pointed out that the annulment of child marriages often primarily harms the underage partners, who are suddenly left with nothing without any entitlement to maintenance and financial support. It is now up to the legislature to tighten this up. And to communicate quickly and emphatically: In no single case in the world is child marriage acceptable.