Sex traffickers targeting impoverished Christian communities in Pakistan have reportedly sold hundreds of young girls to China as brides.
Christians, who make up only 2.6 % of the population in Pakistan, have become easy prey for the massive operation due to the help of pastors.
Local Christian pastors have been assisting human traffickers in convincing poor parents to surrender their daughters by offering them thousands of dollars, according to a disturbing new report from the Associated Press.
Told by preachers in their congregations that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christians, the parents allegedly give up their daughters, as young as 13, in exchange for an amount between $3,500 to $5,000.
Pastor Munch Morris, who leads an evangelical church in Gujranwala, revealed that he is aware of a group of pastors working with a private Chinese marriage broker.
Morris revealed that one of the pastors at his own church often tells his parishioners, “God is happy because these Chinese boys convert to Christianity. They are helping the poor Christian girls.”
More than a dozen Christian Pakistani women who either fled shortly after or before their wedding, narrated similar accounts to the AP.
The victims claimed that once they arrive in China, they are vulnerable to abuse since many of them are forced to live in rural, isolated towns.
They also rely on a translation app to communicate so even the simple task of talking to their husbands becomes a challenge for them.
An estimated 750 to 1,000 girls have been married off to Chinese husbands since October last year.
“It is all fraud and cheating. All the promises they make are fake,” young bride Muqadas Ashraf, who was 16-years-old when her parents married her off to a Chinese man last year, was quoted as saying.
Less than five months after their wedding, she returned to Pakistan pregnant and seeking a divorce.
Human Rights Watch has recently called on China and Pakistan to take action to end bride trafficking, highlighting the “increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China.”
According to the organization, there has been a “disturbingly similar pattern” of underprivileged women being trafficked to China for marriages from at least five other Asian countries, such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam.
The Chinese embassy in Pakistan has since issued a statement acknowledging that “some unlawful matchmaking centers made illegal profits from brokering cross-national marriages.”
It then claimed that China is “cooperating with Pakistani law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal matchmaking centers.”
Earlier this week, Pakistani authorities arrested eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis who are believed to be involved in the human trafficking ring that takes young Pakistani women to China.