Viral video exposes forced marriage serving as vehicle for sex trafficking


Sammy Jo Cienfuegos/Hilltop Views

Sexual violence is more prevalent in South Asia because of Asian women’s inclination to endure abuse according to South Asian Women’s Centre.

No woman should be denied a free and happy life. No human being should be forced to endure a relationship fueled with rage and ownership. No family should be able to, or even want to, sell their child into such a dangerous life.

A tweet by user @mixiealot went viral two weeks ago. The tweet exposed a practice extremely common in South Asia- forced marriage as a vehicle for human trafficking. The tweet linked a video of a South Asian woman allegedly getting sold by her parents. The exchange was staged as a wedding, but the groom is shown slapping his bride in the thirty second clip.

Twitter user @mixiealot goes on to say, “ppl need to understand that sex trafficking doesn’t have to look like women locked in cages. it can look like this.”

A forced marriage is defined as a union formed through coercion and without informed consent from both parties, according to South Asian’s Women Centre. Forced marriages occur everywhere, but are predominantly found in South Asia. Due to cultural pressures to conform and endure abuse, women often give in to the pressure and involuntarily enter a marriage. In addition to cultural pressures, harassment from family and the community is also common.

Many families, like the one in the video, sell their daughters in order to pay off their debts. While this is a hard decision for a family to make, seven out of ten families living in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries live below the poverty line of $1.90 a day, according to Asian Development Bank.

Despite these financial difficulties, a parent’s decision to sell their child is unimaginable. Young women aren’t being stolen; they are given away to men who will only torture and abuse them. Human trafficking is estimated to be the most profitable crime, but is any amount of money worth more than a human life?

In Thailand, the average income for a family is 10,000 baht, which is about $320. A young woman’s virginity sells for around 40,000 baht, which is about $1,200. With this amount of money, families would be able to better provide for the remaining members of the family. But is improving the lives of some worth taking the life away from another?

Adding to the pain and betrayal these women must feel, abuse is something else to add onto their list of worries. South Asian women face interpersonal violence at a much higher rate than the rest of the world. While other regions see about 30% of violence within marriage, 42% of South Asian women face the same atrocities.

After @mixiealot’s tweet went viral, an important conversation has begun. Sex trafficking disguised as forced marriage is an issue that demands national attention if we want anything to be done about it. Knowing is the first step in fixing this issue. Local communities should be wary of perpetrators and step in whenever able. No one, no matter what cultural ideals are prevalent around them, deserve any part of this.