The international aid group Save the Children says more of China's women and children are at risk of being sold into forced labor or prostitution. The group says the trend is being fueled by the mass migration from China's countryside to its cities, and by a growing gender imbalance. VOA'S Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing.
For years, experts have warned that China's strict controls on the number of children people can have drives couples to abort female fetuses and allow more boys to be born.
The result: for every 119 boys born in China, there are only 100 girls.
Save the Children's top official in China, Kate Wedgwood, said Wednesday in Beijing that the imbalance is one factor putting more Chinese girls at risk of being trafficked, especially in the countryside.
"The lack of girls for marriage in the eastern and rural areas is fueling a demand for girl babies to be raised as future brides for better-off farmers' sons," she said.
There are no exact figures, but the Chinese government and international aid groups estimate that tens of thousands of girls and boys are being trafficked in China each year.
Wedgwood says she expects the number to rise, especially as millions of poor rural dwellers continue to leave their villages in search of work in the cities. Their children remain behind, and vulnerable to traffickers.
She says that for a price ranging from $1,300 to $2,600, traffickers are buying children from relatives - or sometimes kidnapping them. They are then sold to childless couples, or put to work as beggars, prostitutes, or pickpockets in the cities.