Download the complete reportBRIDES FOR SALE: A Comprehensive Report on Asian Women Trafficking to China
The director of the Gender Equality Network (GEN), Daw May Sabe Phyu, said that every year hundreds of Myanmar women, especially from Shan and Kachin states, are trafficked to China as “brides”. Many are tricked into traveling to China to seek job opportunities, while some are kidnapped and held against their will to be sold to Chinese men seeking wives.
Human Rights Watch published a report in 2019 called “Trafficking of Kachin “Brides” from Myanmar to China” based on interviews conducted with the survivors of brides trafficking from Myanmar. According to the report, the traffickers used deceit to deliver women into sexual slavery. Most of the women and girls interviewed were recruited by someone they knew and trusted. Of the 37 survivors interviewed:
- 15 said they were recruited by friends. 1 woman was sold by a friend from her bible school
- 12 by an acquaintance.
- Another 6 were recruited and sold by their own relatives.
Some girls said they were drugged on the way and woke up in a locked room. Others were told, after crossing the border, that the job they were promised was no longer available, but another job was, several days’ journey away. Unable to communicate due to language barriers, and with no money to make their way home, many women and girls felt no option but to stay with the person escorting them, even in the face of growing unease. In Myanmar, conditions resulting from conflict, land confiscation, forced relocation, and human rights abuses have spurred widespread landlessness and joblessness, resulting in increased migration to China. Lacking proper documentation, language, and education, Myanmar women are increasingly at risk of trafficking, including forced marriage.
Propaganda Videos by the state media
To counter the growing uproar against the brides trafficking from Myanmar to China, Chinese state media from time to time release propaganda videos showing happily married Myanmar women living in China, but such videos are also reacted to by the locals sharply.
Advertisements for marriages and surrogacy
In 2019, residents of Muse, a Myanmar border town in northern Shan state that serves as a major trade hub between the two countries (Myanmar and China), reported seeing advertisements posted on lampposts and building walls.
One ad with a headline reading “Invitation for Marriage” in Chinese and Burmese, gives the height, income, and address of an unnamed Chinese man who is looking for a Myanmar bride between the ages of 26 and 32. The ad also provides a contact number and says more details can be discussed over the phone.
Other advertisements with the headline “Surrogate Mothers Wanted” say a company is looking for women under the age of 25 to carry the babies of Chinese men in exchange for payments of 13,000 yuan (USD 1,900$) a month plus meals and accommodations. The ads also provide a contact number.
Over 7,400 women and girls were estimated to be victims of forced marriage in four districts (Kachin State and Northern Shan State) in Myanmar, with over 5,000 females forced to bear children with their Chinese husbands. According to burmese.dvb.no (archives), Bride prices offered range from 1,500,000 Myanmar Kyats (~USD 700$) to 6,00,000 Myanmar Kyats (~USD 3000$) and they are sold in China at the price of over 2,00,000 yuan(~ USD 30000$).
According to the data collected from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) and Myanmar Department of Social Welfare following is the number of reported women trafficked from Myanmar to China. (Most of the trafficking of women doesn’t get reported)
The majority of the routes are from the Kachin and Shan states of Myanmar directly to China’s Yunnan province. After the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state, many women are trafficked from Rakhine to Shan state and then to China. Other prominent routes include the trafficking of women from Myanmar to Laos and Thailand as transit.
The ordeal of Myanmarese women
Seng Moon’s family fled fighting in Myanmar’s Kachin State in 2011 and wound up struggling to survive in a camp for internally displaced people. In 2014, when Seng Moon was 16 and attending fifth grade, her sister-in-law said she knew of a job as a cook in China’s neighboring Yunnan province. Seng Moon did not want to go, but the promised wage was far more than she could make living in the IDP camp, so her family decided she shouldn’t pass it up.
In the car, Seng Moon’s sister-in-law gave her something she said prevented car sickness. Seng Moon fell asleep immediately. “When I woke up my hands were tied behind my back,” she said. “I cried and shouted and asked for help.” By then, Seng Moon was in China, where her sister-in-law left her with a Chinese family. After several months her sister-in-law returned and told her, “Now you have to get married to a Chinese man,” and took her to another house. Said Seng Moon:
My sister-in-law left me at the home. …The family took me to a room. In that room I was tied up again. …They locked the door—for one or two months.… Each time when the Chinese man brought me meals, he raped me…After two months, they dragged me out of the room. The father of the Chinese man said, “Here is your husband. Now you are a married couple. Be nice to each other and build a happy family.”
Other stories of the Myanmarese women
- Myanmar woman used WeChat to escape China: https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/myanmar-women-in-china-use-wechat-to-escape-forced-marriages
- Police helping to transport the woman to China
- Interview of the survivors of the Brides Trafficking