Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 7, 24 August 2019

Myanmar: Teenage girls traded as brides to China
Raakhavee Ramesh

 In the news

According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, an outsized number of women and teenage girls from the northern Shan and Kachin states of Myanmar are being trafficked as brides to the families in China since the Chinese and Myanmar Government failed. In the internally displaced people's camps of the Kachin state, agonies of the fortunate victims who escaped from China after years of being a sex slave and experiencing domestic violence can be witnessed.

Issues at large

The history of the trafficked victims speaks volumes about the pathetic condition of the women and teenage girls in Kachin and northern Shan states. The decade's prolonged and heightened ongoing ethnic conflict had created financial distress for the ethnic Kachin families and forced them to flee to china for work. These people, while in search of a better livelihood, get carried away by the brokers and the relative's false promises and eventually get trafficked as brides to the Chinese men. On the Chinese side, the practice of "one-child policy" from 1979 to 2015 and gender discriminating abortions had created a severe gender imbalance resulting in the state of certainly no women for marriage and maternity. Subsequently, to bridge the gap, they target low-income families and promise them the high probability of attaining good jobs in China. Since Shan and Kachin states have porous borders with China coupled with inactive state of the border police and lack of stringent laws, these areas are highly prone to trafficking.

In perspective

With China's demographic problem of ageing population unsolved and imbalance in the sex ratio combined with no strict laws in the borders questions the safety of thousands of women in Myanmar who are trafficked in large numbers.

Though the Kachin women's association mostly involve in rescuing the victims, there is still not sufficient international attention shown. Given that the ethnic groups are the collateral damage of the armed conflict, it results in the displacement of natives and pushes them to the state of economic desperation. Also, the Myanmar government's inability to overthrow Chinese dominance and act against them is highly criticized. Trafficking of girls is a type and result of discrimination which can be prevented by enforcing and regulating harsh laws, thereby protecting the rights of women and children. By and large, Myanmar government can support the victims by being inclusive, thus providing medical and legal assistance to the uplift the plight of the displaced people and victims.

Raakhavee Ramesh is pursuing post-graduation in Political Science from Madras Christian College, Chennai. She can be reached at

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