May 15, 2019

Pakistani "brides" are allegedly being sold to Chinese husbands

Chinese nationals arrested in Lahore, Pakistan for allegedly selling women into fake marriages and then forcing them into prostitution. Photo: Ali Murtaza/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistani authorities have arrested more than two dozen Chinese nationals involved in allegedly selling Pakistani women into forced marriages in China.

Why it matters: Human rights groups have documented numerous cases of women sold to Chinese men struggling to find wives due in part to the gender imbalance in the country.

A report by the U.S. State Department says such women have been deceived, forced into unwanted pregnancies, confined for forced concubinism and subjected to prostitution. Pakistani authorities say a crackdown over the past two weeks has exposed an organized crime network involved in trafficking such women.

The latest: Around 30 Chinese nationals allegedly seeking or helping to sell brides have been arrested in raids in multiple Pakistani cities, according to law enforcement officials. Local agents accused of luring poor families into marrying their daughters to Chinese men have also been arrested.

  • The raids followed cries for help from several Pakistani women in China. Approximately 20 women were rescued, and some have since described brutal physical and sexual abuse, and even fears their organs could be sold.
  • A court released two Chinese nationals married to Pakistani women after their spouses testified they had willingly married the men.

China’s embassy in Pakistan released a statement saying China supports the Pakistani crackdown if laws are being broken, but also said Chinese investigations had found “no forced prostitution or sale of human organs” for Pakistani women living in China.

  • China has sent a task force to coordinate with Pakistani authorities and "jointly safeguard China-Pakistan friendly relations." Pakistan is an ally of China, and a number of Chinese workers live there.
  • China has also withheld visas for 90 Pakistani women who were to travel to China with their spouses.

The big picture: There are documented cases of women being trafficked to China from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea and Pakistan, says Heather Barr, acting co-director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch.

  • The “pull factor,” Barr says, is the gender disparity in China, which was exacerbated by the one child policy because many parents wanted their only child to be a son. There are 30 to 40 million more men than women in China, and projections suggest that by 2030, more than 1-in-4 Chinese men in their late 30s won't be married.
  • The “push factor” is conflict and desperate conditions in countries like Myanmar which leave women vulnerable to trafficking.

The bottom line: The State Department’s anti-human trafficking watchdog has stated that Beijing has not met its minimum standards for the prevention of human trafficking.

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