Hundreds of poor Christian women from Pakistan have been trafficked as brides to Chinese men in the last few months. Parents of these women are lured by the false promise that their daughters are being married to ‘wealthy Christian converts’. However, in reality, these men are neither.
On May 6, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency arrested eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis in connection with trafficking. These men were caught during a raid in Punjab province in Pakistan.
News agency The Associated Press spoke to several brides who have been victims of the ‘human smuggling’. Muqadas Ashraf, one such woman said that she was married off at the age of 16 to a Chinese man. Now pregnant Muqdas has returned to her country and seeking a divorce from her abusive husband.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 7, 2019
The women, after being married to these men, are taken to remote rural settings. Unable to communicate, the young Pakistani women are then forced to depend on translation apps for even a glass of water. Many of these women have complained of being abused and assaulted.
As per reports, an average of $3,500 to $5,000, including payments to parents, pastors and broker is made from the Chinese groom to the girl’s family.
It is being alleged that a greater nexus of traffickers and Church members of the clergy are at play. Aslam Augustine, human rights and minorities minister of Punjab province has called this ‘human smuggling’. He has also accused the Chinese government and the Chinese embassy in Pakistan of neglecting this issue. He alleged that visas and documents were issued by the embassy without scrutiny.
Saying that both ‘Chinese and Pakistani youth are victims of these illegal agents’, the Chinese embassy has promised cooperation and support to Pakistan in cracking the unlawful matchmaking centres.
How are these matchmaking centres thriving
Experts believe that China’s one-child policy, which has disturbed the gender ratio in the country is to be blamed. Mimi Vu, the director of advocacy at Pacific Links which helps Vietnamese women says that it is ‘purely supply and demand’. “It used to be, ‘Is she light-skinned?’ Now it’s like, ‘Is she female?’,” Mimi Vu said, referring to the fact that brides were initially brought from countries like Vietnam, Laos and North Korea.
Pakistan has come under traffickers radar. The Christian community forms one of the most vulnerable communities in Pakistan. They do not have proper representation nor they enjoy popular support. Another reason these poor families are targeted is that as opposed to the patriarchal societal norms were the bride’s family is made to pay heavy dowry, in this case, the grooms usually pay the money.