- Find a person you trust: friend, teacher, or social worker with whom you can talk about your legal questions, housing, counseling, and additional support. See “Info & Help” for more information.
- Talk to your parents: only if you feel safe, talk about your concerns, but try to have someone there who can mediate the situation if necessary
- Slow down the process: if you feel safe, try to make sure that your parents have plenty of time to consider your own views
Remember that there can be legal consequences for those who force you to get married. The actual consequences can either be a monetary fine or imprisonment. Depending on the offence, the person engaging in the illegal activity can get a criminal record. Once a person has a criminal record, the ability to travel, get a job, receive child custody, etc. will be very negatively affected.
You have the right to consent or refuse to be married. You have the right to choose whom you marry.
In Canada, you have the right to:
- refuse to be married
- be free of emotional blackmail
- be treated equally and with respect
- live in security
- be free of physical or mental abuse
- refuse to have sexual relations
- have an abortion without telling anyone but your doctor
- leave your husband through divorce or separation
There are many resources available.
Some Canadian websites include:
- Has a good overview of forced marriage, and has advice for people who want to help someone in a forced marriage
- Has a very good “emergency help” section, “what to do” section and a “frequently asked questions” section
My family is taking me back to our home country for me to get married – what can I do?
- Talk: only if you feel safe, talk to your parents about your concerns, or speak to a social worker if you feel that speaking with your parents will only make the situation worse. See “Info & Help” for more information.
- Photocopy: your passport and personal identification (e.g. driver’s license), along with the address and telephone number of where you will be staying and give an extra copy to someone you trust
- People who you feel you can trust AND are not subject to pressure from the people who are forcing you to get married – give them a detailed summary of your travel schedule and a photocopy of your passport and personal identification
- the Canadian consulate or embassy in the country where you are traveling (generally limited to Canadian citizens)
- the local authorities (e.g. police) of the country you will be traveling to
- any organizations that may exist in the country you are traveling to that may help with youth problems or women’s rights
- Get enough: foreign currency for phone calls, food, and hotels + get a mobile phone that works overseas
I was married against my will, but I have no legal proof of the marriage. Can I have my marriage annulled?
If you do not have legal proof of your marriage, you are not considered to be legally married in Quebec. You therefore have no ground to apply for your marriage to be annulled. Note that an annulment is distinct from divorce, because annulment establishes that the marriage never existed, whereas divorce recognises that the marriage once existed but that the marriage is now over. Grounds for annulment include bigamy, marrying a brother or sister, not following statutory procedure, errors in identity, and duress.
Alternatively, if you are seeking a divorce, you can ask the government of the place where your legal marriage occurred to reissue your marriage certificate, and which point you can apply for a divorce.
Forced marriage is a violation of internationally recognised human rights standards. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(2)