Forced Marriage

Read below for answers to frequently asked questions

My parents are forcing me to marry someone I don’t want to marry. What are my rights?

In Canada, forced marriage is illegal. Forced marriage occurs when one or both of the people getting married do not want to marry each other. The law requires that for a marriage to be legal, both people need to give free and informed consent. This means that both people agree to marry the other person having all the information needed to make the decision, and without such extreme pressure where they believe that they have no choice but to marry that person.

An arranged marriage is not exactly the same as a forced marriage. Arranged marriages are part of different cultures. They often involve family members recommending a suitable spouse and the individual involved can freely choose whether or not to marry. However, if the individual cannot give free and informed consent, this can be forced marriage.

If you are being forced to marry someone you don’t want to marry, you should speak to someone you trust as soon as possible such as a teacher, counsellor, or a lawyer.

If you are being forced to marry someone without your consent contact Youth Law at The Alex (by phone at 403-207-9029 or use the “Ask a lawyer” feature of the website).

Legal Authorities

  • Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, s 293.1(Forced marriage), s 293.2 (Marriage under age of 16 years).
  • Parihar v. Bhatti 1980 CanLII 362 (BC SC), 17 RFL (2d) 289.
    • Circumstances where consent may be vitiated are conveyed. Family pressure, nervousness about getting married or concern that parents will be upset is not enough to vitiate consent. There must be duress such that the individual feels so much pressure to marry, feels fearful, such that s/he believes s/he has no choice but to marry.

Reviewed 07/16


Can I get out of an arranged or forced marriage if I don’t want to be married to that person?

Depending on your circumstances the law allows you to get a divorce or to get an annulment.

To get a divorce, the Court usually requires that the two people in the marriage are separated for a period of two years before it is granted.

An annulment is when the Court says that your marriage was invalid (as if it never happened).

The requirements for an annulment include:

  • The marriage has not been consummated (you have not had sexual intercourse with your husband or wife), or
  • You did not consent to the marriage.
    • Consent means that both people choose and agree to marry each other without fear of what would happen if they did not marry that person.

A marriage may not be annulled if:

  • There has been sexual intercourse between the husband and wife before or after the marriage; or,
  • The husband and wife have lived together as husband and wife after the marriage.

There are no legal advantages in getting an annulment rather than a divorce. However, in some cultures, annulment may be a better option. It is important to note, an annulment is only available in certain circumstances.

Legal Authorities

  • S(A) v S(A), [1988] OJ No 1407 (QL), 65 OR (2d) 720 (CanLII).
    • Consent may be vitiated by duress which can come from physical or emotional pressure.
  • Falk v Falk, 1999 ABQB 570, [2000] 1 WWR 583 (CanLII).
    • Annulment will not be allowed where the failure to consummate is a wilful refusal not to partake in intercourse.
    • An annulment may be granted, however, where one party is impotent or has an incapacity of some kind that prevents consummation of the relationship.
  • Parihar v. Bhatti 1980 CanLII 362 (BC SC), 17 RFL (2d) 289.
    • Circumstances where consent may be vitiated are conveyed. Family pressure, nervousness about getting married or concern that parents will be upset is not enough to vitiate consent. There must be duress such that the individual feels so much pressure to marry, feels fearful, such that s/he believes s/he has no choice but to marry.
  • Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c 3 (2nd Supp).

My parents say that they won’t talk to me again if I don’t marry the person they have chosen for me. What should I do?

You have the choice of who you want to marry.  This is a difficult situation because having family support is very important.  Talking to an adult that you trust (such as a guidance counselor or teacher at school, your family doctor, or a lawyer at Youth Law at The Alex)

If you want to talk about your situation, please feel free to contact us by phone at 403-207-9029 or use the “Ask a lawyer” feature of the website.  We are open from 8:30 to 4:30, Monday through Friday, and we will be happy to talk about this with you.

Reviewed 07/16