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The Global Persecution of Women


Jill McGivering, “China slow to wake up to human trade,” BBC News, 9 August 2006.

As China opens up, people trafficking is emerging as a growing threat, but officials are reluctant to admit the scale of the problem.

In Yunnan province, young women are being sold as wives or to brothels and sweat shops in Thailand.

Life in the small Yunnan villages, close to the border with Burma, is very different from other parts of China where the economy is booming. This is a sleepy world of lush rice paddies, hillsides bursting with rubber trees and dotted with Buddhist temples. ...


Trafficking is a hugely sensitive subject here. Officials do not really want to talk about it. And neither do victims. It took a lot of negotiating to find a young woman who was prepared to speak out for the first time and tell her story publicly.

Qing-qing is 19 now but when she was just seven years old, she and her mother were sold.

"A woman my mother knows came to our house with some men we hadn't seen before," she told me. "My mother was tricked. They sold her as a bride to a man in eastern China."

The man beat her and her mother, she said, close to tears. At the age of 12, Qing-qing was forced to leave school and go to work. Their ordeal continued for eight years before they managed to escape and come home to their Yunnan village.

I asked her if this trafficking of vulnerable women still went on. "Yes," she said. "It's still going on in nearby villages."

"I know people who went through the same experience as my mother. Later some of them came back to the village to trick other people in the same way. It's become a cycle."

”China restates hard line on baby trafficking,” New York Times, 15 July 2004.

China, which introduced a one-child policy in the 1970s, restated yesterday its hard line on trafficking in children and its ban on selective sex abortions.

The sale of women and children has become a nationwide problem in China, where stringent rules on family planning still restrict couples to having just one child, at least in the cities, and limit numbers elsewhere.

The one-child policy has been blamed for upholding the traditional bias for male offspring, especially in rural areas, and triggering a surge in selective abortion, child trafficking and killing of female infants.

“Criminal acts of trafficking, maltreatment and abandonment of female infants must be punished with severity, and illegal sex determination and sex selective abortion must be strictly banned,” Zhao Baige, deputy director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, told a conference.

China has also launched a “Girl Care” project, designed to protect the rights and interests of girls.

Chinese police had arrested 95 members of a gang in Inner Mongolia for trafficking 76 babies, the China Daily said on Wednesday.

In November, a court in the southern province of Guangxi sentenced two people to death and jailed dozens for smuggling more than 100 babies in one of China’s poorest provinces.

The UN Children’s Fund said that about 250,000 women and children were victims of trafficking in China last year.

Official figures in March showed police had freed 42,215 kidnapped women and children in 2002 and 2003 and analysts say that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

”China’s ‘gendercide’ crisis. One-child policy to create shortage of workers,”, 17 Feb. 2004.

So great is the shortage of young women in China, many men are taking to "purchasing" foreign "brides" – sometimes actually sex slaves. The price for Burmese women – many of whom are desperate because of poverty in that nation – is between $600 and $2,400, depending on youth and beauty. ...

East Asia

Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Harsh Chinese Reality Feeds a Black Market in Women,” New York Times, 25 June 2001.

GAOSHI, China — When a man offered Feng Chenyun temporary work in another city, she jumped at the chance. Barely literate and desperately poor, Ms. Feng had two children, 10 and 16, and it was nearly impossible to scrape together school fees from her small plot of rice and rape seed.

Her husband was working as a migrant laborer 1,000 miles away, in Guangdong Province. At 37, she had never left her county in Sichaun Province and was feeling restless.

"I went with him because he was offering me work," she said, recounting from her small dark home the start of a tale that still brings tears three years later. "I just wanted to get out and earn a bit of money."

Instead, Ms. Feng was kidnapped, drugged, placed on a train and sold for about $1,500 as a bride to a brick maker in faraway Xinjiang Province—becoming one of the tens if not hundreds of thousands of poor Chinese women who are sold on a black market each year. zzzSince last year, the government has been waging a harsh campaign against trafficking in women, featuring highly publicized arrests, death sentences, rescues and the like. But the trade, though significantly damped, still thrives in rural areas because it arises from the mathematics of gender in rural China, reflected in the equations of supply and demand:

• In rural China, there are nearly 120 boys for every 100 girls because rural couples, who favor sons, abort fetuses and abandon newborns that are female.
• In much of rural China, it is considered culturally and economically essential that 100 percent of the men find brides and produce heirs.
• Net sum: For every 100 rural men who marry, 20 others must resort to extraordinary measures to find brides, like buying women kidnapped from urban areas.

The trade also reflects the extremely low social status of poor rural women. Rural girls get inferior schooling, training and medical attention when compared with boys. Not surprisingly, they grow up with little hope or confidence. Most kidnappings occur when uneducated young women leave their hometowns looking for jobs.

"Abduction is a very serious problem for these women," said Xie Lihua, editor of Rural Women Knowing All, a self-help magazine. "They have few resources to draw on. They are desperate for work, but don't know what is suitable or how to find it. So they can be easily tricked, then forced to work as prostitutes or sold to poor men who can't find wives."

It is unclear exactly how big the problem is, although reports in the state press say that as of 1999, the police were rescuing 10,000 women a year, clearly representing only a fraction of those kidnapped. That year, before the current crackdown started, abductions of women were rising 30 percent a year, the state press reported. Abductions of children, generally young boys bought by heirless families, were rising 15.3 percent a year.

The densely populated, hardscrabble mountain villages of Sichuan province, like Gaoshi, have become a principal source of women for sale.

In Sichaun's capital, Chengdu, the dirt lot around the vast concrete Nine Eye Bridge Labor Market, the city's largest, is dotted with young country girls in loose shifts and plastic sandals. "Do you need a worker?" they hopefully ask each visitor who enters.

"So many are abducted from this place," said Zhu Wenguang, a private detective who rescues abducted women, noting that the city government recently moved the labor market from a bridge to the edge of town to try to cut down on the trafficking.

In April, a court in Sichuan sentenced Zhou Legui, a trafficker, to death for selling more than 100 women to other provinces, many of whom were abducted from this labor market, press reports said.

"In villages, there is a long tradition of prizing males and looking down on females," Mr. Zhu explained. "So the best local women from the countryside can hope for is to get away, to look for work elsewhere—and that leaves them very vulnerable."

Mr. Zhu said most of the women are sold to remote places that are even poorer than rural Sichuan or where the ratio of men to women is even more lopsided. Studies have found that it approaches 140 to 100 in some places, generally those with strict enforcement of the family planning policy that limits parents to one or two children.

In such places, the scarcity of women has already dramatically altered the economics of marriage: young men must pay the families of their brides-to-be huge sums, "bride prices," dowries in reverse.

Bride prices in some areas can run over $4,000. "But you can get an abducted wife on the black market for a quarter of that," Mr. Zhu said. "So that fuels the trade."

Once the girls have left Sichuan, locating them and bringing them home is costly and time-consuming, since relatives most often have no idea where they have gone. Police campaigns have focused mostly on breaking smuggling rings and bringing traffickers to justice.

Families with money hire Mr. Zhu, a former policeman, to help rescue those who have disappeared. But he spends months researching and preparing for each rescue and his services cost about $500, or 10 years' income for many rural families. Many simply give up on ever seeing their daughters or wives again, just another hardship to endure.

Down a dirt path in a mountain village so poor and remote that it is still called the 281 Brigade, a name dating from the Mao-era collectivization of farms, Peng Zhihua and his wife cling to a picture of their younger daughter, their only keepsake.

Tall and thin, wearing bright red lipstick, a blue V-neck sweater and high heeled boots, this trendy girl, Jinlian, is hard to imagine in her family's crude mud home, where sky peeks through the rough timbers that serve as a roof and large woven trays of silkworms—food for the ducks—are the main fixture in a sitting room.

Peng Jinlian was fond of fashion, so her parents scraped together the money to send her, at 15, to a seamstress course in nearby Guangfu Township. She never returned.

On Sept. 29, 1998, she and two friends were lured from Guangfu by the promise of work, and she was sold as a bride to a man in Shanxi Province. One friend later escaped and reported her whereabouts.

Mr. Peng said that family has spent about $270 buying police officers meals and gifts of cigarettes, "hoping to induce them to help us." But the local police said that they could not pursue the case until they had caught the trafficker, and that there was no money for rescues in distant provinces anyway.

For nearly three years, the Pengs have not heard from Jinlian. They do not know whom she married, whether she has children, if she is happy or miserable. Many abducted girls, penniless, illiterate and without friends in their new homes, have no means of escaping or contacting their families. Brigade 281, like many mountain villages, has no phones.

The abduction has created an economic nightmare for the Pengs, since they have lost not just their child, but also the only old-age insurance they had. In rural China, grown son's families usually take care of aging parents. But the Pengs have only two daughters, and the older one is already married and living in another village.

They remain hopeful, though the odds may be against Jinlian's return. Over time abducted women often become accustomed to their new life, particularly if they are young and the village is not so bad off.

Having been promised in marriage to a man they do not know may not seem so repugnant to poor rural girls. In traditional families, a daughter's spouse is chosen by her father.

And once the transplanted brides give birth to children, they have a strong incentive to stay, since they often must leave their children behind if they move away. "In many of these places, children stay with the man since at least that way he has his heir," Mr. Zhu said. "The local authorities know that he can't possibly buy another wife."

The police acknowledge that some rescued women refuse to return home. Last year, out of 300 sold women rescued from Lufeng, a prosperous southern coastal city, more than 20 decided to stay, state press reports said.

Ms. Feng, the woman who was sold to a brick maker in Xinjiang, said that from the start, she was desperate to return home, but also resigned to her fate. A small stout women with pigtails, she said she did not realize that she was being sold until she got off the train in Xinjiang and was handed off to her new mate. "I was miserable and homesick," she said, "but they had taken my money and my ID before when I was abducted, so I really didn't have any choice."

Soon after her arrival, they had a small wedding ceremony with his work mates, a banquet, with sweets and cigarettes. But she complained bitterly, so he kept her in the house 24 hours a day.

Over time, he began to trust her enough to give her small amounts of money to buy food. And on one of her outings, she managed to place a call to the pay phone near her family's house. She spoke to her 16-year-old daughter, who was living alone with her 10-year-old son. "I told my daughter I wanted to come home and that if they still wanted me, they could come rescue me," she recalled, explaining that she felt her abduction had tainted her. "If not, I said they could forget it."

Two relatives organized a first failed attempt, which ended up with the two men beaten by the brick maker's friends. He hid her in another location.

Finally, Ms. Feng's family contacted Mr. Zhu, the detective. With the help of the local police, he managed eventually to find and free her nine months after she was abducted. Three months pregnant at the time, she has since had an abortion.

Poor men who buy brides, sometimes for 10 times their annual income, never let them go easily, Mr. Zhu said. When he finally finds an abducted woman, he immediately handcuffs her to himself, so an enraged man can not steal her back.

Ms. Feng said that her family spent about $1,250 of mostly borrowed money on the rescue and that she will never be tempted to leave Gaoshi again. But other women, naďve and desperate for work, will certainly take her place. Her daughter recently left the village in search of work. "She's very confident, but she's young, and I worry a lot about her," she said.

Some women are kidnapped again and again. Last year Gu Xuchen, 34, was sold to a man in Inner Mongolia. She too was pregnant when Mr. Zhu rescued her this March, dropping her back at her family home in a remote mountain valley surrounded by terraced fields of dry red earth.

One month and one abortion later, she headed out along the same path that had led to her abduction.

"She left a while ago, but I don't know where," said a grizzled old man, her father-in-law, who was sifting corn in front of the simple mud house early last month. "She had to find work."


”Report Reveals Bride-Kidnapping, Domestic Abuse in Kyrgyzstan,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 28 September 2006.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report yesterday that exposed the bride-kidnapping and violent domestic abuse that occurs among women in Kyrgyzstan. According to the report, women as young as twelve years old are forced into marriage after being captured by groups of men who bring her to the home of the future groom. The woman is often subjected to rape, as well as physical and psychological pressure from the groom and his family in order to gain her consent for marriage. Once married, many Kyrgyzstan wives endure violent beatings and stabbings; some are even killed by their husbands.

While Kyrgyzstan has a law which requires police to respond to and prevent domestic abuse through a serious of specific procedures, Krygyz authorities neglect these obligations, according to HRW. Many government officials believe that domestic violence is more of a private issue than a law enforcement issue. When asked in an interview what the government could do to stop violence against women, one government official said, "Women should be more obedient and pay more attention to men and then domestic violence would decrease," according to the report.


The Global Persecution of Women