If you need immediate help
- 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. Contact a person you trust to help you.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you have already been forced to marry, see a lawyer about options available to you.
For more information, read: If you or someone you know might be forced into marriage.
A 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:
- Tell a police officer or a social worker that you think you are going to be forced into marriage.
- Contact a women’s shelter, youth shelter, school counsellor, provincial or territorial child welfare agency, help line, legal clinic, anti-violence agency, or victim support centre (see resource links below for more information about possible places to go for help).
- Contact Global Affairs Canada’s consular services for information about steps you can take to protect yourself and possible resources available in the province or territory where you live.
If you can’t avoid travelling abroad, try to give the following information to someone you trust in Canada, preferably before you leave:
- your contact information abroad, including the address where you will be staying, the names of those with whom you will be staying, and their relationship to you
- a photocopy of your passport photo page and birth certificate
- a recent photograph
- your itinerary, there and back (anticipated travel details, flight information, return date) and names of people travelling with you
You may also consider taking these safety measures:
- Know how to contact the nearest Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate abroad and hide the contact information.
- Sign up with Registration of Canadians Abroad, a free service for Canadians travelling or living abroad.
- Try to bring along a cellphone or other mobile device and a backup device that can be used internationally. Keep it hidden with the sound turned off.
- Bring copies and/or take photos of your passport, visa, entry stamp, birth certificate and travel documents. Keep these copies hidden.
- Bring 2 extra passport-sized photographs and keep them hidden.
- Secretly keep some emergency cash in Canadian currency and the local currency of your destination country with you.
- Bring a map and a list of emergency contacts for your destination and keep them hidden.
- Set up a way to communicate privately with someone in case you need help, such as using code words or a separate email account.
- Stay in frequent contact with people you trust. Let them know of your concerns and that they should seek help if they have not heard from you within a specified period of time.
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.
Government of Canada resources and links
- Underage and forced marriage (Department of Justice)
- Family Violence Initiative - Abuse is Wrong in Any Language (Department of Justice)
- Financial Assistance for Canadians Victimized Abroad (Department of Justice)
- Help for spouses or partners who are victims of abuse (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada)
- Protect yourself from marriage fraud (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada)
- Child, Early and Forced Marriage (Global Affairs Canada)
Non-governmental resources in Canada
- South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
- Indo-Canadian Women's Association
- I Do! Project
- Safe Centre of Peel
- Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
- Shield of Athena
- Curriculum for Canadian High Schools on Forced Marriage, Youth Agency, and the Culture of Law (Ontario Justice Education Network)
Directories of services
- Victim Services Directory (Department of Justice)
- Find Services in your Area: Family Violence Prevention Services (Public Health Agency of Canada)
- Victim Justice Network
- Women's Shelters Canada
- 211 services in Canada
- Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal - Provincial and Territorial Assistance
- HotPeachPages International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies
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