Migrant Burmese women forced to marry Chinese men

Getting trafficked into a marriage you didn’t want sounds at least as bad as getting trafficked into the sex industry, because on top of the need to have sex when you don’t want to you will be very isolated and forced to do housework and other manual labour. Migrant women from Myanmar recruited for jobs in China and then passed on as wives are being forced to marry (in contrast to different sorts of ‘arranged’ marriages by families of two more-or-less witting spouses).

Lured into a trap, Global Post, 9 September 2010, with photos by Katsuo Takahashi

Last year Chinese police freed 268 Burmese women who had been trafficked and forced into marriages with Chinese men. Human rights activists believe that this represents only a small fraction of the growing number of Burmese forced to marry Chinese husbands.

The causes of this disturbing trend lie both in China and Myanmar (also known as Burma). Seeking to escape Myanmar’s military regime and the horribly mismanaged economy, young women are often lured by recruiters who speak of well paid employment. Many of the victims are from rural areas near China’s Yunnan province and belong to Myanmar’s persecuted ethnic minorities.

Beijing’s “one-child policy,” combined with the long-held national preference for male heirs, has resulted in a grossly lopsided male to female ratio; 120:100 in 2005. The massive shortage of potential brides drives many lonely Chinese men to resort to buying a foreign spouse.

Those women who are lucky enough to have escaped often tell a remarkably similar story. Usually they are recruited in their rural village and brought to the bustling towns on the Chinese side of the border. At this point they are handed over to another trafficker who will take them as far away as Beijing for their “job interview.” The price of a bride depends on her age and beauty, but a Chinese buyer will typically pay between 40,000 to 50,000 yuan (roughly $6,000-$7,500).

Once married, escape is difficult, as the new bride is forced to do housework or farm for long hours. Her husband or his family members watch her at all times. Those who have escaped tell stories of rape, physical abuse and dire loneliness.

More on this from Human Trafficking Increases on Sino-Burma Border, The Irrawaddy

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