Burma: Kachin women trafficked into forced marriages, prostitution in China
Ethnic Kachin women are being trafficked across the border into China and sold into forced marriages and prostitution, according the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT). The organization has documented more than 130 such cases during the past year, some including children. KWAT blames the practice on widespread poverty in Burma brought about by decades of military rule.
“According to the latest information we have received, some parents are selling their own daughters to human traffickers for 12,000 to 13,000 Chinese Yuan (approximately USD 1,800),” said Mary Laban, a spokesperson for KWAT. She added that deteriorating economic conditions in Burma are forcing families to resort to ever more desperate measures to pay off debts.
Laban said that government initiatives to educate people about the dangers of human trafficking have been "weak", partly because most educational materials are written in Burmese, while many of the victims are from ethnic minority groups that speak different languages.
"Education alone will not end this problem. There should be job creation for those young women,” she added.
In a 2007 report entitled “Eastward Bound”, KWAT documented the trafficking of 163 women and girls between 2004 and mid-2007, almost all to China. While 40 percent of the women simply disappeared, most of the rest were forced to marry men in provinces across eastern China.
About a quarter of those trafficked were below the age of 18, while some were as young as 14. Most were sold as brides for an average of about USD 2,000, usually to farmers.
The report highlighted how the Burmese regime’s anti-trafficking law, passed in September 2005, was failing not only to curb trafficking, but also to protect the rights of trafficked women. Victims have been refused assistance by the Burmese Embassy in Beijing, denied entry back to Burma, and falsely accused of trafficking themselves. One woman accused of trafficking was raped in detention by a local official.
“Anti-trafficking laws are meaningless under a regime that systematically violates people’s rights, and whose policies are driving citizens to migrate,” Researcher Gum Khong said at the time.
Although international agencies have raised the alarm about human trafficking in Burma, KWAT cautioned against indirectly endorsing the regime’s heavy-handed attempts to control migration.