Chinese photographer gets insight into child marriages across the country

Chinese photographer gets insight into child marriages across the country



Jie was barely a teenager when she got married just three days after meeting her 18-year-old husband Wen.
They met at a Spring festival while the 13 year old was visiting Wen’s family when her husband-to-be insisted she stay and become his wife.
Unaware of birth control, the teen wife was soon pregnant and dropped out of school – a fate similar to an increasing number of child brides in rural China.

Photographer Muyi Xiao documented cases of the child brides and grooms rocking Chinese society, who can’t believe the young teenagers are really in love.
The legal age of marriage in China is 20 for women and 22 for men, although most rural weddings are sealed with a banquet before legally registering the union when both bride and groom come of age.
Thanks to China’s one-child policy, the gender imbalance in the country is stark as for years parents have preferred boys to girls.
But the young parents are often left reliant on their own parents to support their own fledgling family.
Jie lives in Wen’s parent’s home on the top of a mountain in a village called Tangzibian.
Wen’s parents work more than 1,000 miles away in Anhui province, leaving the couple alone at home.
The money they send back every month is the only income for the young couple

Now finding a suitable wife is tough going, and experts say teenage boys are keen to secure their bride quickly, for fear of losing her to the competition.
Liu Neng, sociology professor from Peking University getting married at this age is a cultural norm for youngsters in rural areas who have not much else to do once they reach puberty.
Now married, 13 year old Jie is bored.
She stays at home to help with the farm, does the cooking and embroidery. Her social life is limited – her husband gets jealous of her friends – and she doesn’t think about the future, according to photographer Muyi, who says it’ll be a long time before she’s old enough to work in the city.

According to Muyi Xiao, the girls are also eager to tie the knot earlier fearing an arranged marriage to a man of their parents choosing – instead of their own – if they don’t settle down fast enough.
Aside from the obvious difficulties of marrying and giving birth so young, the impact of the children ‘left behind’ as their parents migrate to cities for work is yet unknown.
Once they have given birth, the couple are often forced to move to earn money – where the hours and accommodation are unsuitable for a newborn and so leave them with their grandparents in the village.

16 year old Cai and her 17 year old husband Ming met one year ago, when Ming came back the 860 miles from working in Guangdong province.
They dated for three months before getting married, but Cai dropped out of school at 5th Grade – she couldn’t afford to stay.
Now the family’s income relies on the newborn’s grandfather, while Ming’s mum is the main caretaker.
According to Muyi, the teen couple enjoy watching cartoons – young mum Cai’s favourite is called ‘Boonie Bears’, while 17-year-old dad’s favorite is ‘Seven Dragon Balls’.

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