Victims described undergoing forced fertility treatments, physical/sexual abuse and sometimes, forced prostitution, reports Associated Press. An alleged report contains accounts of organ harvesting
Pakistani investigators have discovered more than 600 girls and women across the country who were sex trafficked to China in the last two years. However, chances of convicting the traffickers remain uncertain due to pressures to maintain diplomatic ties.
According to a list obtained by the Associated Press, 629 Pakistani girls and women were sold as brides to Chinese men, since 2018. It is believed that they were all sold to the grooms by their families.
“No one is doing anything to help these girls,” an official, who remains anonymous due to their involvement in the investigation, told AP. “The whole racket is continuing, and it is growing. Why? Because they know they can get away with it.”
Since the case was first put together in June, pressures to maintain relations between Pakistan and China grounded any efforts to catch traffickers to a halt. In October, a Faisalabad judge acquitted 31 Chinese nationals charged in connection with the trafficking. Several of the alleged victims refused to testify due to threats or bribes. The government has also sought to halt the investigation, going so far as to transfer Federal Investigation agency officers pursuing trafficking networks, activist Salman Iqbal told AP.
Pakistani media have also been pressured into curbing their reporting on the investigation.
Pakistani’s interior and foreign ministries have refused to comment on the situation. “When we talk to Pakistani rulers, they don’t pay any attention,” said Iqbal.
The revelation follows an AP investigation from earlier this year, which found that Pakistani-Christian girls are at the highest risk of being trafficked as brides to China, often because the families belong to one of the poorest communities in Muslim-majority Pakistan. Many of the brides, after travelling to China, find themselves isolated in a region where they require a translation app to ask for a glass of water.
Many of the women who spoke to investigators described undergoing forced fertility treatments, physical and sexual abuse, and sometimes forced prostitution. One investigation report, according to AP, alleges that organs were harvested from some of the women sent to China.
The trafficking rings, reports AP, are made up of Chinese and Pakistani brokers and sometimes include Christian ministers of small evangelical churches who accept bribes to convince their flock to sell their daughters.
“The Chinese and Pakistani brokers make between four million and 10 million rupees ($25,000 and $65,000) from the groom, but only about 200,000 rupees ($1,500) is given to the family,” a senior official, anonymous due to proximity to the investigation, told AP.
China’s Foreign Ministry denied being aware of the list. “The two governments of China and Pakistan support the formation of happy families between their people on a voluntary basis in keeping with laws and regulations, while at the same time having zero tolerance for resolutely fighting against any person engaging in illegal cross-border marriage behaviour,” they said in a statement to AP’s Beijing bureau.
The rise of the marriage broker trade in Pakistan is relatively recent. Initially, Chinese men looking for a foreign bride would look towards Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. However, as demand increases, more men are looking further afar, Mimi Vu, director of advocacy at Pacific Links, told AP.
“It used to be, ‘Is she light-skinned?’ Now’s it’s like, ‘Is she female?’”