New in ‘Research’: A UN-ACT Study on Forced Marriage between Cambodia and China

August 25, 2016

UN-ACT is pleased to release its new research report, Human Trafficking Vulnerabilities: A Study on Forced Marriage between Cambodia and China. The study primarily draws on the accounts of 42 Cambodian women who experienced conditions of forced marriage in China, with interviews having taken place in both countries. Key informants from government and non-government stakeholders in Cambodia and China were consulted as well.

The report analyzes recruitment, brokering, transportation and exploitation patterns as well the links between these; determines service needs among Cambodians trafficked to China for forced marriage, in China, during the repatriation process and upon return to Cambodia; and identifies opportunities for interventions to prevent forced marriages from occurring and to extend protective services to those in need, at both policy and programming levels.

Whilst anecdotal evidence suggests that some, perhaps many, of the Cambodian women living in arranged marriages in China appear content in their situations, the research project was conducted in response to the increasing number of identified cases of forced marriage between the two countries.

In Cambodia, a lack of jobs and low wages result in many young women looking for opportunities outside their home country. In China, an unusually high gender imbalance derived primarily from more than 30 years of one-child policy coupled with gender selection due to son preferences creates a demand for women in marriageable age. There are hence significant push- and pull-factors for marriage migration between the two countries, however both sides prohibit international marriage brokerage and thus force potential migrants to enlist the services of irregular agents operating without transparency and oversight.

The downsides of such lack of control over brokers are well-documented in the report. Respondents were both deceived and coerced into marriage by agents to varying degrees. Some came to China for the purpose of work and only later found out that they had to get married instead. Others were told that they needed to get married in order to find work in China, which is inaccurate as marriage doesn’t grant employment opportunities for foreigners in China for a minimum of 5 years. Further, the conditions of marriage proved to be significantly different to what was originally discussed.

Confiscated passports; withheld food; restricted communication and freedom of movement; and threats of having to repay travel costs to China ranging from around US$2,000 – $8,000 all served to coerce women into marriages with Chinese men. These factors were compounded by their visa status, in that respondents had typically and unknowingly entered China on tourist visas with a validity of 1 month and only found out after their arrival that marriage was the only opportunity for longer-term stays.

It is hence a key recommendation to the two countries to establish regular, well-monitored migration channels including for marriage. Given strong and persistent push- and pull-factors, current restrictions only serve to make migrants who continue to move to China for marriage purposes more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Published by UN-ACT with support from Ratanak International and the Governments of Australia, Norway and Sweden, the report is intended to assist the countries involved in the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam) to more effectively counter human trafficking.





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