The one-child policy in China has resulted in more than just forced abortions and sterilizations — it has led to massive cases of child trafficking as families attempt to buy children. It’s also leading to international sex slavery rings and selling women as brides.
The one-child policy exacerbates the cultural preference as girls are subjected to abortions because of the limit placed on the number of children families can have. That has left a so-called bachelor society, where there are too few women in the population and men are resorting to buying and enslaving women.
Last year, the U.S. State Department released its yearly, “Trafficking in Persons Report.” China received an automatic downgrade to the lowest ranking, Tier 3, for being a destination country for sex-trafficking.
The State Department acknowledged the one-child policy as the “key source of demand” for sex-trafficking and forced prostitution within the country, but remained silent regarding the abolition of the harmful policy in its list of policy recommendations for China.
Specifically the State Department’s TIP report said:
‘The Chinese government’s birth limitation policy and a cultural preference for sons, create a skewed sex ratio of 118 boys to 100 girls in China, which served as a key source of demand for the trafficking of foreign women as brides for Chinese men and forced prostitution. Women from Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Mongolia are transported to China after being recruited through marriage brokers or fraudulent employment offers, wherethey are subsequently subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor… Traffickers recruited girls and young women, often rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers, imposition of large travel fees,and threats of physical or financial harm to obtain and maintain their service in prostitution.’ State Department 2013 TIP Report pages 157-158 (emphasis added)
But, as a new report shows, the women sold as brides aren’t just coming from other Asian nations. The trafficking ring has expanded to central America.
Khai Sochoeun went to live in China, but she doesn’t know where exactly. She was married to a Chinese man for months, but she never knew his name.
The slight 29-year-old sits calmly under her family’s wooden stilt house as she recounts how she was duped into leaving rural Cambodia with the promise of a lucrative factory job in China, only to be married off to a man who repeatedly abused her.
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“I used to watch Chinese films and I saw many pretty places and people with modern lifestyles. I thought it was better there than in Cambodia, but when I got there I changed my mind,” Sochoeun says.
In the last six months multiple human traffickers have been arrested at Phnom Penh’s international airport while trying to send Cambodian women to China to become brides. Meanwhile, local rights groups say they’ve received a number of requests from poor rural families asking for help to get their daughters repatriated from China.
Thirty-five years after China implemented its one-child policy—which prompted many couples to abort female fetuses so they could have sons instead—the country is facing a significantly skewed gender ratio. By 2020, China will be home to about 30 million single men—many of whom will need to seek wives elsewhere.
The trafficking of women from Vietnam and Myanmar to marry in China has been a common practice for some time, but lately more and more families in Cambodia have begun filing complaints with police and rights groups over daughters trafficked there.
In February, the family of a 25-year-old girl from Ratanakkiri province filed a complaint seeking her repatriation after she telephoned her sister from China complaining of abuse. The same month three women contacted an NGO asking for help returning to Cambodia because they were not allowed to leave their homes and were being treated as slaves by their husbands. The women had previously been working in Cambodia’s garment industry where the average wage is about US$100 a month and had been lured abroad by promises of better jobs.