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The persecuted Christian Asia Bibi is thankfully here in Canada now but news from Pakistan for others is once again disturbing. If it isn’t jihadi terror or Islamist extremism, it somehow ends up being about the oppression of women under the strictures of Sharia law.
This time the problem centres on Pakistani Christian women. Pakistan is, of course, a predominantly Muslim country that marginalizes all women, even those of the majority religion. Christian women are therefore an especially vulnerable group.
This time their oppressors seem to be governed mainly by economic motives. The market? China. It is the shortage of women in that otherwise populous country that has led to Christian women from poverty-stricken parts of Pakistan being trafficked as brides. Young Pakistani Christians are being lured with promises of prosperity, but in fact, are being forcibly married off to men they don’t even know in a foreign land.
It is a scam at every level, and all such exchanges turn the girls into mere commodities. They are being married off against their will. The unsuspecting parents of these Christian girls are given cash rewards and are told that their prospective sons-in-law are wealthy Chinese converts to Christianity. This is certainly an alluring prospect for many destitute families struggling to put food on the table.
The Chinese government is equally to blame. It has enabled this market by allowing easy passage to China.
According to a recent report in the Sun, these young women are cast into the most desperate circumstances. They end up in rural areas with no modern communication facilities, almost cut off from the rest of the world. Once there, they are subjected to abuse or neglect.
This kind of suffering is not new to young women in many parts of Pakistan. This latest trend just augments established cultural practices. It has long been the norm in parts of Pakistan that the groom’s family simply pays money to the girl’s family and literally purchases her “services” for life, under the pretext of marriage.
Related practices include the offering of women in marriage to settle disputes, though often the brides are girls married off to men old enough to be their grandfathers.
This latest problem has become widespread enough for Human Rights Watch to issue a warning to Pakistan and China to take action.
These “exports” to China are only part of a massive problem. In Sindh province, Hindu girls are simply being abducted and sold to their oppressors for forced conversion and marriage. These girls face the worst type of abuse with no escape from their plight.
Solutions are hard to come by. Pakistan needs, first of all, to guarantee basic protection to its most vulnerable, the poverty-stricken masses who often become victims of their family’s own desperation or greed.
Pakistan needs to monitor such cases better. Hindu and especially Christian girls are at greatest risk. The government should put safeguards in place and provide social services for struggling families who fall prey to traffickers and middlemen.
Unfortunately, both China and Pakistan have poor human rights records. But international pressure and constant reminders to both countries to crack down on this newest trend may help the situation of some of the girls involved.
News channels in Pakistan ought to keep this pressing issue alive in the media so that some action can be taken to protect these very vulnerable women.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019