China's kidnapped baby brides

Thanks to a worsening shortage of unmarried women, gangs are trafficking little girls.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

Published June 2, 2009 10:10AM (EDT)

In the bad news category, this story trounces all past reports about the growing gender imbalance spawned by China's one-child policy and a cultural preference for boys. On the bleakness scale, it even surpasses the repeated warnings about a future generation of millions of lonely and sexually frustrated young men who could resort to causing chaos, maybe even waging war. The same goes for reports about how the girl shortage has spurred a thriving bride trade in which in-demand bachelorettes are kidnapped, sold and, in the case of at least one "ghost bride," even murdered.

I have three sickening words for you: Baby bride trafficking.

Yes, gangs are kidnapping and selling female children to "farmers who want wives for their small sons when they come of age or by men who want a child bride without a dowry," reports the Times of London. It's tough to pin a number on how many girls and women are abducted each year; estimations run the absurdly wide range of 2,000 to 20,000. One thing is for certain, though: Just as with China's gender gap, it's growing. Brigham Young University's Valerie Hudson, who has studied China's gender issues, told the Times: "The abduction of toddlers takes things to a whole new level and certainly indicates, as the data plainly show, that the sex ratio problem among the youngest cohorts of the Chinese population is increasing, not decreasing."

It's tough to imagine a worse way for girls' cultural stock to climb.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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