Hmong child bride lawsuit sparks conversation about marriage practices

A Hmong woman is seeking $450,000 from a Minneapolis man who allegedly raped and impregnated her when she was a teenager living in Laos. The case — Vang v. Prataya — was brought under Masha's Law, a federal law that allows victims of child sex cases to seek monetary compensation.

Linda Miller, who represents Panyia Vang, say her client's case is the first time Masha's Law has been used in a case of child sex tourism. Vang was 14 when met the defendant, who allegedly traveled to Laos and raped her, before bringing her back to the U.S. for a forced marriage.

Miller joined MPR News' Doualy Xaykaothao to discuss the case. Kabzuag Vaj, a co-founder of Building Our Future, a Minnesota group that aims to end gender-based violence in the Hmong community, also joined the conversation.

Vang's case has sparked discussions nationwide of marriage practices in the Hmong community.

From The Washington Post:

For years, neighborhood lore in Minnesota's Hmong communities has recounted stories of girls who had been brought to America from Laos and other Asian countries to serve as "cultural brides" at the beck and call of older men who had already been married several times over. There are whispered tales of the abuse these women endure at the hands of their traditionally-minded husbands.

"I feel relatively comfortable saying that most of us are related to someone who has committed this act," said [Sia] Her, executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. She called these international abusive marriages the Hmong community's "open secret."

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