Frequently Asked Questions
The difference lies in having a choice (being “told” versus being “asked”). If you are being forced into a marriage, your opinion of whether you are ready to marry, wish to marry and who you want to marry will not be considered. You might also know little or nothing about your potential groom. You might not be able to meet him before the marriage. You will not get a choice to turn down the proposal. Your consent will not be sought or considered.
You can reach out to teachers, trusted friends, and community organizations that work to end violence against women, or agencies that work with youth,or those that give crisis counselling.
Many organizations will be able to link you with support groups and help you to find shelters, housing, financial assistance and counselling. You may choose an agency or organization that deals specifically with individuals from your ethnic or religious background. Or you may choose an agency or organization that deals with a wider variety of individuals if that would help you to feel more comfortable.
Remember that many women and men who have faced forced marriage have gone on to live full and happy lives whether or not their family chooses to take them back. Only you can decide what is best for your own situation, but whatever you choose to do, make sure you have the support of someone outside your family.
No, it is not true. All major religions are against forced marriage. Forced marriage is, in fact, against God’s will. Anyone who tells you otherwise is ill-informed, or wishes to scare you into accepting a forced marriage.
If your parents want the best for you, they will ask you whether you want to get married. If they do not and if you feel you are able to approach your parents without putting yourself atrisk, then sit down and have an open conversation with them stating your reasons for not wanting to get married. Listen to their concerns, suggest alternatives, and reassure them of your intentions. If your parents were raised in a different culture with different attitudes, let them know that you are not trying to be “something else” but to lead a productive and fulfilling life. Suggest that they talk to someone who shares their background but who also understands your concerns. If you do not know of such a person, contact agencies or organizations in the Network of Agencies Against Forced Marriage (NAAFM) found on this website, and ask someone there for a referral.
If you feel that your parents may not be open to having such a conversation, seek the help of a trustworthy family member who can help you to share this information with your parents. If that is not possible, seek counselling for yourself from someone who understands your parents’ concerns as well as yours.
If I run away from home to escape a forced marriage, how can I survive without money or a place to live?
There are many shelters and refuges in Canada that will provide you with emergency accommodation. There you will connect with a social worker who will help you to apply for permanent housing and any other resources that you may need.
If possible, do not go. If this is not an option, contact the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and provide them with the following personal information:
- Your name
- Date of birth
- Passport details (number, city and date of issue)
- A recent photograph
- Overseas contact information
- Names of people you will be staying with and your relationship to them
- Address of place where you will be staying
- Local contact information
- Contact details of someone you trust in Canada.
- Names and occupations of your parents
- Anticipated departure and return dates/ Flight details (carrier, flight #)
- Names of people you are travelling with
Remember to take these things with you:
- Currency- Canadian, as well as the local currency of the country you will be visiting
- Cell phone
- Photocopies of your passport, tickets, and other major identification
- Important phone numbers of resources and contacts in Canada
If possible, leave a copy of the above information with a trusted friend or adult, as well, along with photocopies of your passport and tickets, and a recent photograph of yourself.
If you are already overseas, contact the nearest Canadian government office in the country you are in. If this is not possible, call the Emergency Operations Centre at 613-996-8885 (call collect).
There are many differences between forced and arranged marriages. See the chart under Arranged vs. Forced Marriage. The primary difference is the right to choose. Arranged marriage allows you to have a voice and a choice, but forced marriage does not.
Yes, they do. Forced marriage still happens today, in Canada and abroad. However, it is not well publicized and victims are often afraid to speak out so forced marriages often go unnoticed and unreported.
Although forced marriage is not a distinct criminal offence in Canadian law, many of the actions involved in forced marriages are criminally actionable. This includes the use of violence, threats of violence and forcible confinement. In family law, any marriage conducted without the full and free consent of both parties is not a valid marriage. These marriages can be legally annulled whether they took place in Canada or abroad, and regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are Canadian citizens or not.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Canada is an original signatory, states in Article 16.2 that “marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” Everyone has the right to choose who, when, and if they marry. Denying this right is a breach of one’s basic human rights and, as such, becomes a public matter that requires public intervention.
Although most of the victims of forced marriage are women, men can also be victims. Men may be victimized because of a prior marriage commitment made by the parents, or in order to control behaviour they find unacceptable, or because the men are perceived to be queer, and forcing them into marriage is seen as a means to “cure” them.
Forced marriage occurs within families within all major religions,as well as in families that are not religious. All of the major religions condemn forced marriage. However, individuals and some families use religious arguments to impose marriage on vulnerable individuals.
Forced marriage has been practiced in most patriarchal societies at one time or another. It was practiced across Europe during the medieval period and continued to be practiced there well into the latter part of the nineteenth century, especially by those in the higher classes. In North America, “shot-gun” weddings were perpetrated into the twentieth century and forced marriage by religious leaders in polygamous sects is ongoing in both Canada and the US. In the Greater Toronto Area, forced marriages are known to affect women and men born in Canada and those born abroad. Ancestral backgrounds of victims range from South Asia, Europe, South America and Africa.
I am expected to arrange my daughter/son’s wedding, but I don’t know if my daughter/son wants to get married. How can I tell if I am forcing them?
Have an open conversation with them and listen to what they have to say. Let them know your concern. Allow your daughter or son to freely disclose their feelings and thoughts. Arrive at a compromise. Leave the door open for further communication. Assure them that they will have a voice and a choice in deciding when and whom they wish to marry.
You would only be forcing your daughter or son if you do not ask for and acquire their consent. Do not tell them they have to be married. Ask them if they wish to marry. If they say no, respect their choice and revisit the issue again at another time. Never threaten them. Never make them feel guilty. Always approach your daughter or son with love, affection and respect. If you wish to give their photograph to a matchmaker or the potential family of a bride or groom, let your daughter or son know of your intention and ask them if they are comfortable with the situation. If they are not, then do not betray their trust.
I was forced into a marriage, and now my sister/brother will be too. I don’t want them to go through the same thing, how can I get help?
Have a conversation with your sibling and find out their true feelings. If you feel that you can approach your parents without putting yourself or your sibling at risk, initiate a conversation with them. If not, find a trustworthy third party to help you address the situation with your parents.
You may also want to seek legal advice, and counselling from someone with experience dealing with cases of forced marriage.
If your sibling is underage (under 16 years old), the situation must be reported to the Children’s Aid Society. This organization’s main purpose is to protect children.
Contact an organization that provides legal assistance and find out what would be the best way for you to proceed legally. If there is any possibility that your spouse or family might react aggressively, work with an agency experienced in dealing with situations involving violence and ask them to help you work out a safety plan. A planned exit is preferable to an unplanned exit. However, if violence is anticipated, seek emergency help immediately by calling 911.