Human traffickers from Pakistan and China are forcibly prostituting hundreds of predominantly Christian new wives sold to Chinese men by impoverished relatives under pretenses that they will live out better lives in China, Voice of America (VOA) reported over the weekend.
Concerned that the findings will inhibit its relationship with its all-weather ally China, Pakistan is reportedly trying to keep its investigations into the sex trafficking operations secret.
The Associated Press has reported that Christian church leaders work with Pakistani and Chinese traffickers. They find young, poor girls and persuade them to marry Chinese men, but the marriages are false. The women go to China, where they are abused. Pakistani police say the women are often forced to work as prostitutes.
Authorities in Pakistan’s Punjab province, believed to be home to the largest concentration of Christians in the Muslim-majority country, are reportedly cracking down on the sex trafficking operations within its borders.
“The girls who are interviewed say they were tortured,” a Pakistani law enforcement official told AP, which noted that the officer was using “a euphemism for rape and forced prostitution.”
“They are afraid for their families, and for the disgust they fear they will feel. … Make no mistake, this is trafficking,” the official added.
Two Pakistani law enforcement officials who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity revealed that Islamabad is trying to keep the findings of the investigations into the sex trafficking rings secret.
“They said government officials do not want to endanger Pakistan’s economic relationship with China. So, the law enforcement officials said the government tells investigators to stay quiet,” VOA noted.
BRI, launched by Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping in 2013, has attracted “thousands” of Chinese workers into Pakistan since 2015, AP noted in its report last week, adding:
China’s ambassador to Pakistan has gone on local television channels denying girls are trafficked to China and sold into prostitution. The issue of human trafficking was not discussed during a visit to Pakistan this month by China’s vice president, Wang Qishan, who held talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s president.
In comments carried in the Pakistani press, Wang denied trafficking was taking place — and referred to an online video that traffickers often use to lure in families, showing Pakistani brides in China dancing and happy.
Ijaz Alam Augustine, the human rights and minorities minister in Pakistan’s Punjab area, “estimated that more than 500 women had been trafficked to China,” AP found.
Saleem Iqbal, an activist for Pakistan’s small Christian minority who has helped girls return home from China, place the estimate at “750 to 1,000,” the news wire agency added.
AP reported that authorities in the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore and Islamabad had arrested at least “at least two dozen Chinese and dozens of Pakistanis.”
In addition to human trafficking, Pakistani authorities have charged the detainees with “profiting on body parts stolen from girls trafficked to China, without offering evidence,” AP found.
On Saturday, VOA learned from AP that some of the “hundreds of Pakistani girls who have been married to Chinese men in return for payments to their families” are sold off by their relatives under pretenses that the women are going to rich men in China where they will live comfortably.
“Most of the families are Christians. They come from one of the poorest communities in Pakistan,” VOA noted.
Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency has reportedly raided several of the illicit businesses and made some arrests.
The VOA article pointed out:
Along with the information provided by victims, has come a greater understanding of how the human traffickers work. Families are told their daughters will be married to rich businessmen and given good lives in China. The agreement is often described as good for both sides: The parents receive money, and the Chinese men find wives.
Investigators, however, learned that the husbands are forcing most of the girls to sell their bodies.