Contrary to some beliefs that forced marriages are most prominent among South Asian communities, a British Columbia group that assists immigrants and refugees has found the phenomenon happens across many different ethno-cultural groups. 

MOSAIC, in partnership with Ending Violence BC  is on a quest to find out how often forced marriages happen in the province and how they can be prevented.

It began the project a year ago. At the time, the only research available about forced marriage — or marriage without the consent of at least one partner — in Canada was done by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, which found 219 cases of forced marriages in that province.

However, there is no data specific to B.C., says MOSAIC project developer Chany Chea.

After speaking with key informants and community service providers, and holding focus groups, Chea says the surveys indicate women and girls are the predominant victims of forced marriages, and they are coerced into marriage for economic exchanges or for citizenship sponsorship reasons.

Chea says the 40 focus group participants come from 13 different countries across several continents.

Forced marriage is also a means to control sexuality, Chea said.

"So if somebody is perceived to be promiscuous or from identifying as LGBTQ, that could be used as a way to control that," she told On the Coast's Stephen Quinn.

"There could be several reasons why, but ultimately it is a gendered issue where predominantly women are being forced into marriage. It is the assumption that women should be controlled by men in their families that causes forced marriages."

Chea says most of the 53 service providers who participated in the study said they don't feel equipped to help a client who may be in a forced marriage.

As a result, the next phase of the study will focus on developing a framework that could inform and help service providers aid victims of forced marriages.

Listen to the interview: B.C. group tracks forced marriages.