Forced marriage in Canada 'more prevalent' than thought: ex-child bride

June 23, 2017
Article Source
CTV News

Samra Zafar was just 16 years old when her mother told her she would be marrying a 28-year-old man in Canada.

Against her wishes, Zafar left her Pakistani family's home in the United Arab Emirates and started a new life with her husband in Mississauga, Ont.

Over the next decade, she endured "abuse of all kinds" as she raised two daughters and tried desperately to obtain a university education and get out of her marriage. She eventually succeeded and is now speaking out about child brides and forced marriage – a problem she says is prevalent, even in Canada.

"It's actually shocking how much it happens here," Zafar, who is now a successful financial services professional, speaker and human rights activist, told CTV's Your Morning on Thursday. 

"Since I have started speaking up about it, I get approached by women and girls all the time."

Forcing very young girls into marriage is a serious problem all around the world, activists say. In Canada, marriage laws vary among provinces and territories, with the legal age of marriage generally set at 18. However, in many provinces, a person with consent from both parents can be married at age 16 or 17.

Those exceptions can lead to forced marriage because the bride's consent is not explicitly sought, said Saadya Hamdani of Plan Canada, an international organization that supports social justice for children in developing countries.

"The cultural value that is attached to marriage is a very big problem," Hamdani told CTV's Your Morning.

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