Researchers surveyed 400 women in 40 sites in Myanmar and China, estimating more than 7,400 women and girls were victims of forced marriage in the area and more than 5,000 were forced to bear children with their Chinese husbands.
The study, carried out by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, also came to the conclusion there were “likely many more victims” of such trafficking beyond the area they studied.
It said official statistics considerably underestimate both the scale of migration to China and the number of victims of forced marriages and childbearing.
The disparity of China having 34 million more males than females as a result of Beijing’s one-child policy, which has been in place since 1979, is driving bride trafficking from neighbouring countries, the research found.
“It’s a means of survival for girls and their families, and this is regardless of their age, among younger or older women,” Casey Branchini, one of the report’s authors, said at a launch event for the study.
Marriages are often arranged and brokered by the women’s own families and village elders and women are left powerless to refuse because they are in the lower echelons of the social hierarchy.
The research also looked at the factors influencing the risk of forced marriage among women and girls in Myanmar as well as the impacts these marriages are exerting on women’s health.
The study, which is the first to quantify the extent of the problem and was carried out from June 2017 to April this year, called on Myanmar’s government to take immediate measures to end the armed conflict.
It also urged both Myanmar and China to provide training to border officials on anti-trafficking and safe migration measures.
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