Against their will: Inside Canada’s forced marriages

Forced marriage is one of the last taboos to break. A new law could make it a crime. So why do those who champion prevention oppose it?

 

Two weeks after her 18th birthday, Lee Marsh was sitting at the kitchen table one Sunday, reading the Bible, when her mother came in and announced that Marsh would marry a 20-year-old member of their Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Montreal. The girl was stunned; she had met her husband-to-be just once. Five weeks later, it was done.

For a few months before, her mother had been shopping her around while sizing up men in the congregation—some more than 20 years older—looking for a suitable husband. She made Marsh wear a tight, low-cut white dress bought for the outings. “I hated wearing it. I’ve always preferred to be covered up,” Marsh says. “But my mother really wanted me to be attractive to these men.” Marsh’s mother had rejected all the suitors up to that day in 1970 when she announced the match. “I knew I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion. This wasn’t a woman that you said no to.”

Marsh thought about the leather strap hanging by the front door, the one her mother used when the children—Marsh was the eldest of four—dared to defy her. They never knew what would set her off; two weeks before, Marsh had got it for not cleaning the house properly. So Marsh buried the feelings of anger and betrayal she felt toward the woman who had abandoned her twice already in her short life: After her parents divorced when she was nine, she was left behind in Toronto with a father she says sexually abused her; later, in Montreal, when she had returned to her mom, she says her mother’s Jehovah’s Witness boyfriend also sexually assaulted her, and she was sent into foster care.

 

Read More: http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/against-their-will/

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