A 40 year old man has been arrested in China after hospital staff treating his pregnant wife determine she is only 12 years old.
The man had initially claimed that she was 20 years old after taking her to a hospital when she went into labor. Also accompanying the couple was an older woman he claimed was his mother.
The unidentified man had taken the 12 year old to Xuzhou City Central hospital to undergo a routine examination to determine the progress and health of the fetus. Hospital workers quickly discovered that the girl was clearly far younger than he had alleged.
On staff member, speaking to the media said “It’s obvious she is just a child, and certainly not anywhere near 20 years old,” adding the child was unable to answer them as she did not speak Mandarin.
When the staff initially discussed their concern, he became defensive and was reported to say “I took her here to be examined, just do your job. Stop asking so many questions.” The staff then notified law enforcement of the situation.
Police investigators later determined that the child was not a Chinese citizen as she had no state issued identification. They believe she was either abducted or sold somewhere in southeast Asia and brought to China as a forced child bride.
Some speculate that the rise of human trafficking in child brides in China may be a result of population control policies from previous eras, that left a marked gender imbalance in the country.
CNBC reports that according to Chinese officials “In 2015, the birth gender ratio showed a decline in the number of males to females for the seventh straight year, but it was still at 113.5 boys for every 100 girls.”
And CNN has reported that “The lack of females has resulted in a competitive marriage market for men, particularly in rural areas, and while some women from neighboring developing countries have willingly entered into marriages in China in search of a better quality of life, there have been reports of girls being tricked or trafficked into the country to be sold as brides. Villages along the Vietnamese-Chinese border were particularly targeted by human traffickers, who can sell young girls in China for more than $3,000.”
This incident has highlighted a problem that extends well beyond Asia, and indeed may be a considerable problem here in the United States as well. As the New York Times recently reported, people from many different religious backgrounds have approved of the practice of child brides.
Speaking to the New York Times, Fraidy Ress, a founder of the non profit group Unchained At Last, says “The solution is relatively simple. State legislators should eliminate the archaic legal exceptions that allow children to wed. This is the only way to end child and forced marriage in the United States. Based on my own experience working with forced-marriage victims across the United States, I am sure many of these children had to marry against their will,” she added. “Forced marriage is a widespread but often ignored problem in the United States.”
While it often happens with girls in late adolescence, around 16-17 years of age, there has been documented precedent for courts to grant permission for marriages to occur where the girl may be as young as 13.
What do you think of this practice? In some cultures, the idea of child brides goes back thousands of years. Is it time for a global prohibition against this practice?