Chinese men looking for foreign brides are now hiring brokers to find them Christian girls in Pakistan and paying off families for their daughters, according to a new report.
Since last October, an estimated 750 to 1,000 Pakistani girls have been married off to Chinese men in a trafficking scheme that often leaves the girls in precarious or abusive situations, the Associated Press (AP) reported this week.
The traffickers have targeted Pakistan’s small minority Christian population, centered in Punjab province, a deeply impoverished community with little political or social support. Their prospective husbands often profess to be Christian converts themselves, which is normally not the case.
The brokers look for especially poor or indebted families and promise large sums for their daughters, an offer that many find difficult to turn down.
“Once in China, the girls — most often married against their will — can find themselves isolated in remote rural regions, vulnerable to abuse, unable to communicate and reliant on a translation app even for a glass of water,” AP reported.
According to Ijaz Alam Augustine, the human rights and minorities minister in Punjab province, the marriage scheme is essentially “human smuggling.”
“Greed is really responsible for these marriages,” Augustine said. “I have met with some of these girls and they are very poor.”
China’s notorious gender imbalance, fruit of the country’s draconian population policies, has left many marriage-age men desperately seeking partners outside the country. Pakistan appears to have shown up on traffickers’ radar some time last year as a new source of prospective brides.
“It’s purely supply and demand,” said Mimi Vu, director of advocacy at Pacific Links, which helps trafficked women. “It used to be, ‘Is she light-skinned?’ Now it’s like, ‘Is she female?’”
For their brides — some as young as 13 — prospective husbands pay $3,500 to $5,000 on average, which includes payments to parents, pastors and a broker, AP reported.
While some Christian pastors have collaborated in the match-making, others, such as Pastor Munch Morris oppose these arrangements. “We know these marriages are all for the sake of money,” he said.
Last Monday, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency conducted a series of raids in Punjab province in connection with trafficking, arresting eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis. The undercover operation leading up to the raids entailed attending an arranged marriage.
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