A teenage girl who was trafficked to China for forced marriage is now safely back in her home country and receiving support to live independently.
Rasmey*, from south-east Cambodia, was 15 years old when her parents unknowingly entrusted her into the hands of traffickers, who sold her as a child bride to an older man in China.
It began when a ‘friend’ offered Rasmey a well-paid job as an au pair and her father reluctantly took up the offer, hoping his daughter would be able to send home money and better their fortunes.
Maggie Crewes, Hope for Justice’s Cambodia Director, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic hit Rasmey’s family hard. With a dwindling clientele, her father had to shut down his barber shop, and was left trying to work remotely, often outside under a shaky awning. His only business items included a broken mirror, some rusty scissors, a blunt razor and a torn vinyl chair. The family was very poor and desperately looking for a way to improve their situation. Rasmey’s father hoped she would be able to send a little something home each month. But she was actually sold as a child bride.”
China’s one-child policy, which ended in 2016, coupled with a cultural preference for sons, continues to drive the demand for foreign women as brides for Chinese men, according to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report.
The report found that illicit brokers hand women and girls over to forced and fraudulent marriages in exchange for fees of up to $30,000 – the equivalent of about £20,000. Poor Chinese men often ‘purchase’ brides from overseas because they cost less than the dowries and gifts required to marry a local girl.
Rasmey managed to run away from the man who bought her. After a long journey, she found her way to the Cambodian embassy in the Chinese province to which she was trafficked. The Cambodian representation reported the case to the police and arranged for Rasmey to be repatriated and brought into Hope for Justice’s care.
The International Labour Organization estimates that 37% of those living in forced marriage were children at the time of the marriage, and 44% of those individuals were under the age of 15.
Thankfully, Rasmey found safety at our Lighthouse, a short-term assessment and transition facility for young victims of sex trafficking, forced labour or forced marriage in the days and weeks immediately after rescue.
We carried out a family assessment, and our empowerment team learned that Rasmey’s father is keen to be back in contact with his daughter. With our support, he has restarted his hairdressing business.
Meanwhile, Rasmey hopes to learn her father’s trade. She has successfully secured an apprenticeship with a salon in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital.
Maggie Crewes said: “Rasmey is studying at a fancy salon and will finish her training in about three months. She is staying at our Stepping Stones Project, learning life skills that will give her a brilliant foundation for the future. We will support Rasmey as she applies for work and looks to live independently.”
*Name and image changed to protect identity of the survivor
Learn to spot the signs of forced marriage and other forms of modern slavery and human trafficking here.