Forced marriage

If you need immediate help

For more information, read: If you or someone you know might be forced into marriage.

forced marriage means that one or both people do not, or are not able to, consent to the marriage.

Forced marriage can happen to anyone, anywhere, even in Canada.

In a forced marriage, parents, relatives and community members might use emotional pressure, threats or violence to force someone to marry. The person may also be forced to have sex, or forced to get pregnant. In some cases, people are taken abroad against their will to be married.

Sometimes a person might be told they are going on a trip to visit relatives, not knowing that a marriage has been planned for them there. When they arrive in the foreign country, their passports and money are sometimes taken away and they may be constantly watched to stop them from returning to Canada. They might be prevented from communicating with others to ask for help.

Forced marriage is recognized by the United Nations as a violation of human rights. In Canada, it is a crime to force anyone, whether a child or an adult, to marry. It is also a crime to take anyone under the age of 18 out of Canada to force him or her to marry in another country.

Underage Marriage: Nobody under the age of 16 is allowed to get married in Canada. It is also a crime to take anyone who is under 16 out of Canada for the purpose of a marriage in another country, even if the person wants to get married.

Forced marriage is not the same as arranged marriage, in which family members may recommend a marriage partner. In this case, both people agree to the union and choose to marry the potential partner. 

If you or someone you know might be forced into marriage

If you are in Canada and you think you will be taken to another country for a forced marriage, try to avoid travelling abroad if at all possible. It could be much more difficult to leave a forced marriage situation in another country.

Contact a person you trust to help you:

If you can’t avoid travelling abroad, try to give the following information to someone you trust in Canada, preferably before you leave:

You may also consider taking these safety measures:

If you are at the airport about to be taken abroad against your will, try to report your situation to someone if you can do so without putting yourself in danger. For example, try to tell the security agents during security screening or airline officials before boarding the plane.

If you are a Canadian in another country and you believe that you will be forced to marry, or if you have already been forced to marry, contact us for assistance. The consular services and assistance available will vary according to your particular circumstances and wishes, and will depend on the country where you are located. Talk with us to determine what kind of help we can provide to you and what consular services are available.

If you have already been forced to marry, you may wish to speak to a lawyer about options available to you.

If you are a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident who has been forced to marry a foreign national, and you are forced to sponsor your spouse to immigrate to Canada, you may withdraw the application at any time. Information related to sponsorship and permanent residence applications is available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. To receive immigration-related information or provide information about an immigration application that involves forced marriage, contact IRCC through a Canadian visa office if you are overseas. If you are in Canada, call IRCC's Call Centre and select option "6" to reach the dedicated line for victims of abuse and forced marriage. If you are worried about your safety, ask the visa officer or the IRCC officer to keep information about the forced marriage confidential.

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