What’s happening in Pakistan?
A new policy brief from the Brookings Institution shows the shocking scope of this issue. The executive summary states: “The practice involved cases of fraudulent marriage between Pakistani women and girls—many of them from marginalized backgrounds and Christian families—and Chinese men who had traveled to Pakistan. The victims were lured with payments to the family and promises of a good life in China, but reported abuse, difficult living conditions, forced pregnancy, or forced prostitution once they reached China.”
In much of its new brief, the Brookings Institution looks at a 2019 Associated Press report about the results of an investigation on cases of Pakistani women and girls being trafficked through marriage to China.
According to the report, marriage brokers troll poor areas, especially Christian neighborhoods and churches, and try to work with trusted clergy as well. Underaged girls are the main target and money is promised to the families in return for marriage—typically between $3,500 and $5,000, though the amount varies.
The paying for brides not only alleviates the great burden of a typical dowry for poor Pakistani families, but also amounts to a very generous “bride price;” such payment is not illegal under Pakistani law.
Pakistan’s small Christian community, centered in the Punjab province, makes a vulnerable target. Open Doors estimates there are a little more than 4 million Christians in this nation of 212 million, which is No. 8 on the 2022 World Watch List. Christians are among Pakistan’s most deeply impoverished people and have little political or social support. Plus, non-Muslim men are not allowed to marry Muslim women in Pakistan without converting to Islam. By targeting Christian girls and women, marriage brokers guarantee an easy union for the Chinese men desperate to marry.