BANGKOK Thousands of vulnerable women and girls from northern Myanmar are being trafficked to China and forced to marry, a study said on Friday, offering a rare look at an issue that grips the conflict-hit borderlands.
China has around 33 million fewer women than men due to the decades-long one-child policy.
To plug the gap, tens of thousands of poor women from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are sold as brides each year, some going willingly, while others are tricked or trafficked.
In the first research of its kind, a report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated 7,500 women from war-torn Kachin and northern Shan states have fallen victim to forced marriage in China.
Based on interviews with scores of people who escaped and returned to Myanmar, and others still inside China, the study found that the majority of those trafficked were also forced to carry a child for their husband.
Vast majority of abducted girls forced into marriage
Women leave Myanmar because of conflict, displacement and poverty said report author W Courtland Robinson, while the male-female sex imbalance in China, especially in rural areas means demand for a wife is high.
One woman told researchers that she was trafficked into China three times, and each time pushed into giving birth, said Moon Nay Li of Kachin Womens Association Thailand, who led the field research in Kachin and Shan states.
Because of political instability, conflict and land confiscation security for women is a big challenge, she said.
Marriages are often arranged and brokered by the womens own families and village elders, with brides-to-be unable to refuse as they are at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
The youngest women command higher prices of up to US$10,000 US$15,000.
Forced marriages among reasons for suicides in Chitral
Their matches in China are typically to older, sick, or disabled men in rural areas people considered undesirable to the Han Chinese while the womens lack of documentation plunges them into a legal limbo.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.