By Iman Bukhari, CEO of Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation
Over the past year and a half, I have been talking to several individuals who were forced into a marriage (here in Calgary!). After completing my documentary, I found even more individuals who had seen and heard of the documentary. They wanted to talk to me about their experiences. I have incredibly overwhelmed and touched that these victims felt they could share their experiences with me. They also told me, they felt comforted that I had touched this topic, as it's a very serious problem. This form of slavery is absolutely heartbreaking and I truly hope our work as an organization can really help to mitigate it.
After talking to these people, as well as people who were the ones who forced their children, I have learned a lot. For the most part - it's basic education that is lacking. Often times, people don't understand what they are doing is wrong, "because it has always been this way." A forced marriage has been something that has been happening within their traditions for a long time. It's an old practice, but still continues everywhere in the world.
Early in January, Maclean's magazine release this piece about forced marriages that happen in Canada. The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario also released a report where 219 cases of forced marriages were reported in Ontario and Quebec from 2010 to 2012 (these were just the reported incidents). The people who reported forced marriages, the vast majority of whom are women, came from a wide range of religious groups: Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and others with no religion. I think with such findings, it's evident to say this practice happens to people with various backgrounds. Therefore, calling it a cultural practice is not ideal, in my opinion.
Now for some good news!
We have partnered up with the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association who will be debuting our documentary on forced marriages.