China’s one-child policy and a cultural preference for boys means that the world’s most populous country has a severe shortage of women. That means a severe shortage of brides. And that means a human trafficking crisis.
Kiab, a Vietnamese girl who had just turned 16, was told by her brother that he was taking her to a party. Instead, he sold her as a bride to a Chinese man.
The ethnic Hmong teenager spent nearly a month in China until she was able to escape her new husband, seek help from local police and return to Vietnam.
“My brother is no longer a human being in my eyes ― he sold his own sister to China,” Kiab, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, told AFP [Agence France-Presse] at a shelter for trafficking victims in the Vietnamese border town Lao Cai.
Vulnerable women in countries close to China ― not only Vietnam but also North Korea, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar ― are being forced into marriages in the land of the one-child policy, experts say.
Michael Brosowski, founder and CEO of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, sees Vietnamese girls sold for $5,000 as brides or as prostitutes, and says the girls are often tricked into believing they are going to China for good-paying jobs. In northern Vietnam, where living is rough and remote, girls live in fear as trafficking becomes more prevalent.
I worry so much about it, as do all the mothers in the villages, but it has happened to a lot of girls already,” said Phan Pa May, a community elder from the Red Dao ethnic minority group.
“I have one daughter. She’s already married, but I’m worried about my granddaughter. We always ask where she is going, and tell her not to talk on the phone or trust anyone.”
On the other end of the age spectrum, baby boys are trafficked in China at a horrifying rate. Anne Roback Morse of the Population Research Institute tells of an obstetrician who would tell her patients that their baby son had been born still born or deformed, only to take the perfectly healthy baby and sell him. Morse says the Chinese government has made “miniscule” steps to rectify these situations.
The ramifications of the lack of respect for human life created by China’s one-child policy continues to ripple out far beyond limiting the number of births. The policy has now created a commodification of life that not only disregards the life of the unborn, but also degrades all human life to that of an item to be bought and sold.