Women and girls in Myanmar who look for work in China are at high risk of bride trafficking. The majority of human trafficking cases in Myanmar are related to the transportation of unwilling women to China for marriage. Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs reported 104 cases of forced marriage in 2009 and 122 cases in 2010, indicating an increase in the practice. The UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) states that 70% of the reported trafficking cases involve women being tricked or drugged before being transported to China.
National program coordinator for UNIAP in the Mekong region, Ohnmar Ei Ei Chaw, explains that cross-border marriage is a traditional custom in the region and perceived as an acceptable and normal practice, but education about this issue has led many people to understand that the process is dangerous and illegal. Ei Ei Chaw believes that bride trafficking will continue as long as poverty persists in the region. The many Chinese men who cannot afford the dowry necessary to marry Chinese women drive these cross-border forced marriages. Chinese men pay $8000 or more to marry a Burmese woman, who claim to have believed the woman was a willing bride, and UNIAP reports that Burmese parents accept amounts as low as $1000 for their daughters.
The US State Department has repeatedly ranked Myanmar amongst the worst performing countries in terms of anti-trafficking action, but the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report recognized Myanmar’s increased efforts towards anti-trafficking. Save the Children has been working in the China-Myanmar border region since 2002, and the organization states that the issue of bride trafficking has received increased attention since 2006. China and Myanmar both agree that this practice is an issue of human trafficking, and, in 2009, both countries signed a trafficking memorandum of understanding. Twenty three areas with high rates of trafficking, such as the border town of Muse, have been occupied by the Trafficking Task Force trained by the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project and funded by theAustralian Agency for International Development. Myanmar’s five year plan of action to combat trafficking, which ends this year, has resulted in an increased number of rescued trafficked individuals and prosecuted traffickers.
Although progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done. David Brickey Bloomer, Child Protection Director with Save the Children UK in Myanmar, declares that efforts need to be directed towards preventative strategies instead of the rehabilitation and reintegration approaches that are currently being implemented. The U.S. State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report will be released in upcoming weeks and the progress made will be evaluated thoroughly.
Compiled from: Myanmar: Bride trafficking to China Unveiled, IRIN, IGWG, (2 June 2011).