A 16-year-old girl in China made national headlines following a dramatic escape from a forced underage marriage after her parents sold her to another family who dragged her out of her room and abducted her.
The girl was taken from her dormitory in southern Guangdong province and forced into a car by the intended groom and his family earlier this month.
She escaped a short time later to a roadside service station in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where she told the staff there: “My mum and dad sold me to them,” before they called the police for her.
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Police said the girl’s parents had sold her for 260,000 yuan (US$38,000) to a man in their home village who intended to marry her without her consent.
To avoid this, the girl fled from her home in southwestern Sichuan province to work as a migrant worker in a factory in Guangdong.
The intended groom and several family members later travelled to Guangdong to look for the girl. They found her working at a factory, dragged her out of her dormitory and forced her into a car, planning to return to their hometown in Sichuan, about 1,500km away.
When they stopped for a rest at a service station on the expressway, the girl used the opportunity to flee, telling them she needed to use the toilet. She then asked the staff to help her and call the police.
Three days later, the girl’s father and her brother arrived in the county to collect the girl. Local civil affairs and women’s federation officials persuaded her family to drop the idea of sending her to marry at such a young age. The officials also provided psychological guidance for the girl before her family took her back to Sichuan.
“If I had not met you, I would not have known what to do, nor what would happen to me. I am so grateful to you,” the girl said to the service station’s workers.
The minimum legal age for marriage in China is 22 for men and 20 for women. Despite this, it was not clear from the police whether her kidnappers or the family members who sold her had been detained or were likely to face legal punishment.
The lack of details on what, if any, action would be taken and the fact the girl was allowed to return to her family who had sold her in the first place, left many mainland internet users concerned for her wellbeing.
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