LAO CAI — In the rural mountains of Vietnam, young girls are disappearing from their homes with increasing regularity. Many turn up across the border, sold as wives for the price of a buffalo.
The stories of the women who end up becoming these brides are nuanced. Some are lured into China with false promises of jobs and better lives, but end up forced into marriage or even brothels to become sex slaves. Some are tricked by someone they trust – a relative, a friend, even sometimes a boyfriend who promises to marry them, but instead sells them. Some girls are drugged, then taken across the border.
Other girls are given up voluntarily by families who are made to believe they will receive a dowry (often “less than the price of a buffalo”, villagers would say), but instead find their daughters have been kidnapped and sold on.
Once the women have been married off, various forces conspire to keep them in China. Some are effectively imprisoned by their new husbands, others are too afraid to return as the stigma they bear means they will be unable to marry again in Vietnam.
Out of the six thousand victims identified by Vietnam’s Department of General Police, only around 600 have returned to Vietnam.
These are the stories of those who were able to escape, and of mothers whose daughters are still missing.
From Vietnam, without love: The Child Brides of China, for South China Morning Post, June 2018.
This article is also featured as the cover story in the print version of This Week in Asia, available for Hong Kong market only.