The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016 there were over 3.8 million people living in conditions of modern slavery in China. Women and girls from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa are trafficked in to forced marriage in the country for fees of up to £30,000. The gender imbalance caused by the One Child Policy and the cultural preference for male children, has caused a shortage of women which has led to the trafficking of women to be sold as brides. As a result many women find themselves either deceived by promises of employment, sold or abducted and forced into marrying Chinese men who have paid for them.
Khawng Shawng and her husband decided one of them would have to go to China whole the other stayed behind to keep their space in the IDP camp. In 2011, when a Chinese couple came to the camp saying they needed a female cook for their construction company and promising wages of 1500 yuan a month ($240), Khawng Shawng packed her things and left with them within two hours. They sold her for 20,000 yuan ($3,200).Khawng Shawng was kept locked in a room for the first 10 days while the man who had bought her worked on the family’s coffee plantation. After 4 months of being held in a locked room and repeatedly raped, Khawng Shawng escaped back to Myanmar and her husband.
The root cause of trafficking is the political situation. In December 2017 the Myanmar army shelled the camp. School was closed because of the shelling.
Because of politics there is no peace in our country. People cannot do their own development. When I was young my family was rich, and we didn’t have to worry. But one day the Myanmar army came, and we lost everything. My parents really wanted us to be educated but we didn’t have the chance because of the conflict…It’s the same now—we want to educate our children, but we can’t. I hope for a democratic government that can develop the country.
He [my husband] asked me, “How much money do you have?” I said, “Don’t ask me how much money, ask me what happened to me in China.” He asked, and I told him about my situation. My husband was crying. I was crying. Then my husband suggested, “Don’t tell this story to anyone else because people might look down on you because you were trafficked to China.” And that’s why until today I didn’t tell anyone.
There was no physical damage to my body. But a man I didn’t accept had sex with me and that always remains with me and it’s really hard and it always has an effect on my life.
[Khawng Shawng sought care from an organisation that visits her IDP camp]
But whenever I went there they ask me what kind of illness I have, so I didn’t go back.
Narrative provided by Human Rights Watch in their report “Give Us a Baby and We’ll Let You Go”: Trafficking of Kachin “Brides” from Myanmar to China