That women and girls are being abused throughout Asia is sickening enough, and warrants immediate attention by the international community. But that Christian girls in particular are being targeted in Pakistan makes the current prostitution ring a double human-rights abuse that needs urgent looking into. (Image source: iStock. Image is illustrative and does not represent any person in the article.)
The New York-based international non-governmental organization, Human Rights Watch, warned on April 26 that "Pakistan's government should be alarmed by recent reports of trafficking of women and girls to China. These allegations are disturbingly similar to the pattern of trafficking of 'brides' to China from at least five other Asian countries."
One week later, Pakistani authorities arrested 12 suspects -- eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis -- in a case involving the sex trafficking of young Pakistani women to China. Many had been sent as so-called "brides." Most of them, some as young as 13, belong to Pakistan's Christian minority.
After the arrests, Jameel Ahmed Khan, a senior official at Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), told Gatestone Institute that a preliminary investigation revealed that the sex traffickers lured young Christian girls from poverty-stricken families to China by promising them a "better life" there -- and providing their parents with a monthly stipend. Khan said that although it appears that hundreds of girls have been sold this way into prostitution, the exact number is under investigation.
Mohammad Azam, FIA assistant director, told Gatestone that the girls, before being sent to their "husbands" in China, were taken to a base located in a posh sector of Lahore, where they were given Chinese language classes.
According to VOA News:
"A mainstream Pakistani television station last month aired images of an illegal matchmaking center in Lahore housing several Chinese men and six Pakistani women, including two teenage girls, awaiting transit to China as brides.
"The victims told the ARY News channel their families received about $3,000 and were promised about $280 a month in future payments as well as a Chinese visa for a male family member."
VOA News also reported that Zhao Lijian, the deputy chief of the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, told local media that his government had sent a task force to Pakistan to work with the FIA. The purpose of this task force -- sources from the Pakistani government told Gatestone -- was to investigate the "fake marriages" between Chinese men and poor Pakistani girls.
It is welcome that this Chinese trafficking ring in Pakistan has been exposed and is being tackled by authorities of both countries. The bad news is that it appears to be one of many such operations in Asia dealing in the sale of women to China, where girls are a desirable commodity, due to decades of child-bearing restrictions and the apparent mass abortion of female fetuses.
As Human Rights Watch reported last December:
"The woman shortage is having harmful consequences in China and sometimes in neighboring countries... Traffickers prey on vulnerable women and girls, offering jobs in, and transport to, China. Then they sell them, for around $3,000 to $13,000, to Chinese families struggling to find brides for their sons. Once purchased, women and girls are typically locked in a room and raped repeatedly, with the goal of getting them pregnant quickly so they can provide a baby for the family. After giving birth, some are allowed to escape—but forced to leave their children behind.
"There is evidence of similar patterns of bride migration and trafficking in Cambodia, North Korea, and Vietnam, and more may emerge from other countries bordering China. Importing women doesn't solve the shortage—it spreads it."
That women and girls are being abused throughout Asia is sickening enough, and warrants immediate attention by the international community. But that Christian girls in particular are being targeted in Pakistan makes the current prostitution ring a double human-rights abuse that needs urgent looking into.
Kaswar Klasra is a journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.