Frequently Asked Questions
Why do forced marriages happen?
There are no valid excuses or justifications for the practice of forced marriage. It is important to understand that individuals who arrange forced marriages are often victims of complex, interacting factors that are context-specific. It is critical for service providers to remain non-judgemental, and to display anti-oppressive, anti-racist and anti-violent attitudes when working with diverse communities.
What are some warning signs of forced marriage?
Cases of forced marriage may often present themselves in conjunction with other problems.
Some possible indicators:
- Appointments are often missed
- The individual appears scared, anxious or depressed
- The individual is always accompanied by someone when attending a consultation
- Injuries are inconsistent with the explanation of the cause of the accident
- One partner or the parent appears aggressive and overly dominant; the individual is passive and afraid • Worsening academic performance
- Absence or poor attendance at school or work
- Eating disorders
- Regular visits to health care professionals with no obvious illness or reason
- Attempted suicide
I suspect one of my service users may facing a forced marriage. What should I do?
Remember that you may only have one chance to meet, talk and consult with the person, so make efficient use of the time, get as many details as possible, and provide as much information and support as you can.
- DO NOT Send the individual away without assistance, in the belief that it is not your responsibility, or that you cannot help them
- DO NOT Approach the family or friends, unless the individual asks you to do so
- DO NOT Send the individual back to their family without their permission
- DO NOT Breach confidentiality
- DO NOT Attempt to be a mediator
- DO NOT Contact community leaders or members unless requested to do so by the client
- DO NOT Disclose immigration status to police or immigration authorities
- DO NOT Provide legal advice unless you are qualified to do so
If you suspect someone is being taken abroad for a forced marriage, check out our Emergency Information page on what to do.
How do I know if I am being forced into a marriage?
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.
Who can I turn to if my family disowns me?
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.
I have been told that being married against my will is the will of God. Is this true?
What is the best way to tell my parents that I do not want to get married?
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 at risk, 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?
If I suspect that someone I know may be taken abroad to get married, what can I do about it?
If possible, try to ensure that they do not go. If this is not an option, tell them to gather as much as the following personal information as they can. Call the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and provide them with this information.
- 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 tell your friend or loved one to take these things with them if they do go abroad:
- Currency- Canadian, as well as the local currency of the country they will be visiting
- Cell phone
- Photocopies of their passport, tickets, and other major identification
- Important phone numbers of resources and contacts in Canada
If possible, ask them to leave a copy of the above information with a trusted friend or adult, as well, along with photocopies of their passport and tickets, and a recent photograph of themselves.
If they are already overseas, have them contact the nearest Canadian government office in the country they are in. If this is not possible, call or have them call the Emergency Operations Centre at 613-996-8885 (call collect).
What is the difference between arranged marriage and forced marriage?
There are many differences between forced and arranged marriages. See our page What is Forced Marriage? to learn more. The primary difference is the right to choose. Arranged marriage allows you to have a voice and a choice, but forced marriage does not.
Do forced marriages happen in Canada?
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.
Is forced marriage against the law in Canada?
Isn’t forced marriage a private family matter?
Forced marriages only happen to women, right?
Which religions practice forced marriage?
Which cultures practice forced marriage?
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.