Sexual slavery

Demand for foreign brides in China is causing a human trafficking crisis, report claims

A Kachin woman is seen at her temporary home in Thakaya Tayatwa camp in Waimaw township in Kachin State, Myanmar. (Diana Markosian/Getty Images)

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Burmese women are being trafficked into China to serve as sex slaves and authorities from both countries are doing little to prevent it, according to a bombshell report from Human Rights Watch released Thursday.

Investigators for HRW spoke with 37 victims of the trafficking trade and several families for the report, “Give Us a Baby and We’ll Let You Go: Trafficking of Kachin ‘Brides’ from Myanmar to China.” The report’s author, HRW acting co-director of women’s rights Heather Barr, says that human trafficking is exploding at the Myanmar-China border due to financial desperation in Myanmar and immense demand for foreign brides in China.

Under China’s now-repealed one-child policy, Chinese parents who wanted a son are believed to have abandoned infant girls and performed sex-selective abortions. As a result, today the country has an estimated 30 to 40 million more men than women.

“We’re seeing now what the long-term consequences are and one of those is the struggle for Chinese men who want to get married and the way that’s created a market for trafficked women and girls,” Barr told TIME.

According to HRW, Chinese traffickers have increasingly targeted displaced women from Myanmar’s mostly Christian Kachin ethnic minority. An estimated 100,000 Kachin who have been displaced by the Burmese military are now living in camps in the country’s northernmost states. Camp directors have alleged that the Burmese government is blocking humanitarian aid to the camps, creating a sense of desperation among families forced to survive on two cups of rice per day. This desperation is fueling the trafficking crisis — Myanmar reported 226 trafficking cases in 2017, but HRW says the real number is likely significantly higher.

Once trafficked into China, the report says, women are sold for between $3,000 and $13,000 and forced into sexual slavery. If they manage to escape, Chinese police typically detain them as immigration offenders. And even if they do make it home to their families, many women are ostracized in their communities for what they’ve been through.

Read the full story at TIME.

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