International Women’s Day and Bride Market

The need to purchase a bride arises from the low female to male ratio.


Representational image (PHOTO: Pixabay)

We have been celebrating International Women’s Day on 8th March every year for women’s rights and we talked a lot about women’s empowerment and it’s getting a great momentum too. It’s global day celebrating the historical, cultural and political achievement of women. The day is also a day of action in support of taking action against gender inequality around the world. We all know the world couldn’t run without women. This is the day to appreciate their efforts with this year’s(2021) theme “WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 World”. But it’s disheartening to hear the plight of women at some part of the world where women are sold as a commodities at what is call “Bride Market or Marriage Market”. Then what is Bride or Marriage market? A marriage market is a public place where parents list advertisement for their children with the aim of finding a marital spouse for them. People then congregate there and read the listing, often in the hope of finding a marital match. Several marriage markets exists in China, such as Shanghai’s marriage market at people’s square and at several parks and other public places in Beijing, such as shopping malls.

Bride- buying also referred to as bride purchasing is the industry or trade of purchasing a bride as a form of property. This enables the bride to be resold or repurchased at the buyer’s discretion. This practice continues to have a firm foot hold in parts of the world such as China, North Korea, Vietnam, Africa and some part of the Europe such as in Bulgaria. Described as a form of marriage of convenience, the practice is illegal in many countries. Bride buying is an old tradition in China. The practice was largely stamped out by the Chinese Communists. However the modern practice is “not unusual in rural villages ‘it is also known as mercenary marriage. According to Ding Lu, of the non-governmental organization “All China Women’s Federation”, the practice had resurgence due to China’s surging economy. From 1991to 1996 Chinese police rescued upwards 88,000 women and children who had been sold into marriage and slavery and Chinese government claimed that 143,000 traffickers involved were caught and prosecuted. Some human rights groups’ state that the real numbers of abducted women is higher. Causes include poverty and bride shortage in the rural areas (rural women go to the cities to work). As women leave rural areas to find work in the cities, they are considered more vulnerable to being “tricked or forced into becoming chattel for men desperate for wives. The shortage of brides in turn is due to amplification of the traditional preference of Chinese couple for sons by the 1979 one-child policy in China. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, estimated that in 1998, there was 120 men for every 100 women with imbalances in rural areas being about 130 males for every 100 females. The increase in the cost of dowries is also a contributing factor leading men to buy women for wives. Human Rights in China states that it is more affordable for a man to buy a wife from traffickers for 2000 to 4000 Yuan then to pay a traditional dowry which often runs upwards of 10,000 Yuan. For the average urban worker, wife selling is an affordable option. When in 1998, China urban workers make approximately 60 USD a month. Brides for sale are outsourced from countries such as Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea. The bride traders sell women as brides or as prostitutes depending on their physical appearance. A common trick employed by bride brokers in acquiring brides for sale is the offer of a job such as in factories and instead kidnapping them. Bride traders can sell a young woman for the price of 250 t0 800 USD. Chinese women, who are bought as wives who bear children are more prone to staying within the marriage.

Bride-buying in North Korea is most common due to the great poverty the country suffers and citizens taking many risks to leave the country. Human traffickers take this as an opportunity to traffic desperate North-Korean women across the country borders to China not often to sell as slaves but mainly as brides. Upon arrival and wedlock, the women are said to be forced into labor or sexual and physical abused by their Chinese husbands. Although there are successful marriages, they hardly ever last because of the illegality of North-Korean citizens crossing the border without authorization despite the women having been in the country for many years, neither them nor their offspring are granted citizenship. As a result they are arrested and sent back to their homeland or kept in China to face the consequences of trespassing. Bride-buying in Vietnam has progressed illicitly becoming the most debauched commercialized industry in recent history, especially around the northern mountain provinces bordering China.  Virgin Vietnamese women from 18 to 25 years old particularly are targeted by several third parties known as the quick matching agencies for East and south-East Asian men from South Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Singapore.Verginity is considered the most valuable trait in this business as virgin Vietnamese women are often purchased at a higher price point. The price ranges differ among agencies; packages are valued between 5000 USD and 2000 USD which includes a wedding, a visa, a health examination test and a language course. According to surveys conducted in Korea, 65% of the Vietnamese respondents only completed primary or lower secondary school. This lack of education can explain the poor social knowledge that allows this industry to grow. Vietnamese women prostitute themselves to foreigners. By selling sex for visas they are introduced to new duties which include labor and domestic servitude. The aforementioned quickie agencies usually group three to five men together to search for Vietnamese wives. This grouping of potential customers generates more profit, saving the organization approximately 50 to 60 per cent in fees estimated to be around 85,000 USD per trip. Bride-buying is an old practice in many regions of India also. According to CNN-IBN, women are bought, Sold, trafficked, rapped and married off without consent across certain part of India. The need to purchase a bride arises from the low female to male ratio. Such low ratio was caused by the preference to give birth sons instead of daughters and female foeticide. That’s why Government of India initiated “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” mission to save the girl child.

Posing for selfies, slapping on lipstick and dancing around a bedroom strewn with clothing, these young teens could be from almost any city in the world. Only the young women from Bulgaria’s Kalaidzhi- an orthodox Christian subgroup of Roma community- will have a different fate than most. Inside Bulgarian’s traditional “bridal market “where teen girls are sold for hundreds of dollars. The 18,000 strong community is widely discriminated against across Eastern Europe and renowned for fiercely guarding their cultural traditions. Young women can be forced to leave schools as soon as they have their first period, according to Alexy Pamporov who has studied the Roma for two decades. The culture is also renowned for a “bridal market”, held up four times a year where young girls flock to muddy fields and parking lots around the country in red carpet gowns to meet prospective husbands. The bride market is an ancient tradition essential to the Kalaidzhi identity which is why this custom has survived but these days most girls have an element of choice-albeit shaped by family pressure –when it comes to whom they wed. While the generation-old market has been changed by technology and economic downturn, it’s still on of the main ways families are introduced to one another in a country where they are economically and socially discriminated against. Grooms pay an average of 290 USD to 350USD for their young brides. Kalaidzhi women must be virgin when they first marry. It is very important because a lot of money is given for virginity. If the girl is not a virgin when you sell her, they will call us whores, sluts and disgraceful women. In spite of tireless efforts of women’s organizations across the globe to uplift the status of women and empowered them, such age old traditions of discriminating and subjugating women folk still exist in some part of the globe. If this is the situation, when will our female folk be freed from such social bondage?

(The views expressed are the writer's own)

First Published:March 8, 2021, 2:09 a.m.

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