The term “mail order brides” does not often invoke similar connotations to human trafficking, but bride trafficking is just that. Victims of this trade are forced to marry men they don’t know from foreign countries that are sometimes thousands of miles away from their homes and families. While it is worth noting that this industry isn’t exclusive to women, women and girls make up the majority of most cases.

People are trafficked for marriage, sex, and labor in virtually every country.  In this episode, we focus on bride trafficking in some of the countries where it is most prevalent. Marriage brokers provide men in developed countries with services to find women for marriage, often from developing countries. Sources for these brides often come from the Philippines, Vietnam, or Cambodia. In all of these source countries, marriage brokers are illegal.

China is one major destination of trafficked brides. Due to numerous demographic issues such as China’s one child policy, Chinese men source brides from countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, or even Ukraine. North Korea serves as a unique source for women in bride trafficking, as refugee flows coming out of North Korea provide a supply of exploitable women.

India is another common location for trafficked brides, most sourced internally. Young women or girls in India are often tricked or coerced, sometimes by family members, into marrying men from provinces in India with severe gender imbalances in the local populations. Other times, men from Middle Eastern countries travel to India for “contract” marriages, where men marry young girls for a limited period of time, before divorcing them upon return to their home countries. Contract marriages can also be permanent, where men will bring their Indian brides to their home countries. 

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About the Author
Lacey Bruske is a graduate from the George Washington University’s MA program in International Affairs. She hails from Portland, Oregon. Prior to attending GWU, she worked at the Department of Justice as an advocate for women who were victims of sex trafficking crimes and a legal assistant on drug trafficking crimes. She graduated from Utrecht University’s University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, The Netherlands with a B.A. in International Law and Foreign Relations. Her travels have taken her throughout Europe, but she hopes to broaden her scope to South America soon. Her academic interests include organized crime and trafficking of weapons, drugs and people.