By Mark Ellis —
Hundreds of impoverished Christian girls have been trafficked from Pakistan to China in the last year to fulfill the growing demand for female brides, partly because so many girl babies were killed in their mothers’ wombs as a result of China’s one-child policy.
One evil has fomented another evil, as the sinful practice of abortion produces bitter fruit in the next generation.
“Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides,” according to a report by AP.
They are being assisted by Christian ministers paid to identify likely candidates in their churches with promises of thousands of dollars for the parents (with cuts to brokers and pastors) in exchange for their daughters.
“Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts,” according to the AP report.
Sadly, they are being lied to, and the grooms turn out to be neither Christian or wealthy. AP interviewed brides, their parents, an activist, pastors and government officials to document their story.
The teenage girls are usually married against their will. When they arrive in China they are often settled in remote rural regions, subject to abuse, and have difficulty with the language.
“This is human smuggling,” Ijaz Augustine, a Pakistani government official, told AP. “Greed is really responsible for these marriages … I have met with some of these girls and they are very poor.”
Augustine charges that the Chinese embassy in Pakistan is ignoring the practice by freely issuing visas and documents to the new brides.
There is “increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China,” Human Rights Watch noted recently.
On May 6th, Pakistani officials arrested eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis in raids in Punjab province in connection with trafficking, Geo TV reported. The raids transpired following an undercover operation that surveilled an arranged marriage.
AP interviewed more than a dozen Christian Pakistani brides and prospective brides who were able to escape before their arranged marriages. All testified the practice involved brokers and shockingly, Christian ministers.
To fulfill the demand for Chinese brides, many have come from nearby countries such as Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. Now Chinese men are broadening their search area, with Pakistan targeted in the last year.
Since October 2018, an estimated 750 to 1,000 Christian girls have been married to Chinese men, according to Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist.
“Pakistan’s small Christian community, centered in Punjab province, makes a vulnerable target. Numbering some 2.5 million in the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population of 200 million, Christians are among Pakistan’s most deeply impoverished. They also have little political or social support,” AP noted.
It is a traditional practice in Pakistan for parents to decide a daughter’s marriage partner. Girls are considered less desirable than boys because the bride’s family must pay a dowry and the cost of her wedding. New brides may be abused by husbands and in-laws if the dowry is considered to be lacking.
“By contrast, potential Chinese grooms offer parents money and pay all wedding expenses,” AP noted.
Sums of $3,500 to $5,000 are typical in these transactions, paying parents, pastors and a broker, Iqbal told AP. He said some of the brides are as young as 13.
Pastor Munch Morris said he knows a group of pastors in his neighborhood in Gujranwala (north of Lahore) who work with a Chinese marriage broker.
One of the pastors said, “God is happy because these Chinese boys convert to Christianity. They are helping the poor Christian girls.”
But Pastor Morris opposes the arrangements. “We know these marriages are all for the sake of money,” he told AP.
Brokers also seek brides at Pakistani brick kilns, where the poorest work as indentured servants to pay off debts. The brokers offer to pay off their workers’ debts in exchange for daughters as brides.