In rural China, there is currently a phenomenon of women, who were trafficked internally and forced to marry the men who bought them, escaping from their captors and leaving their children behind. This has caused the media to call certain rural villages "no mother villages."
According to a report by Women of China, 116 women have moved away from the Huangjing township, Hunan Province, leaving 131 children motherless.
In Shangfang township, Zhejiang Province, more than a fifth of children have been abandoned by their mothers who were trafficked from poor regions in southwest China.
The issue of trafficked women has a long history in China, with the one-child policy and the preference for male offspring creating a significant gender gap and a shortage of wives. Women are taken from poor areas, promised a bright future with a high-paying job and brought to rural villages that are also poor, where they are forced into marriage.
China's definition of human trafficking is "the abduction, kidnapping, trading, and transporting of women and children for the purpose of selling," which includes other cases, like that of women and children sold for organ harvest or prostitution. However, cases that other countries would call trafficking, such as men being recruited into forced labor, are not covered and punished as other crimes.
The children that are left behind end up the victims in the situation, many of them ending up withdrawn or violent, requiring counseling. Some end up being abused by fathers that used to abuse the women who escaped.
In Huangjing township, university students, local mothers and government workers often volunteer to give psychological counseling to these children.
"Sometimes volunteers who give psychological counseling to those children end up hurting them again as they only stay for a short period," said Dong Jinxia, director of the Peking University Research Centre for Gender, Sports and Society.
For several years now, the Shaoyang County government has been distributing a 200-yuan-per-month stipend to children who have been left behind by their mothers.
The issue of women trafficked into forced marriages recently received national attention when Gao Yanmin became a household name after choosing to stay with the family that bought her and became a teacher in Hebei Province. A newspaper in Hebei Province has given her the title "most beautiful village teacher."
In 2009, Gao's story was adapted into the film "The Story of an Abducted Woman." Recently, the film has received criticism for focusing on Gao being a devoted teacher instead of being a victim of abduction and trafficking.