“Give Us a Baby and We’ll Let You Go:” Trafficking of Kachin “Brides” from Myanmar to China

Authored by: Human Rights Watch

Categories: Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies
Sub-Categories: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health
Country: China and Myanmar
Region: East Asia and the Pacific
Year: 2019
Citation: Human Rights Watch. “Give Us a Baby and We’ll Let You Go” : Trafficking of Kachin “Brides” from Myanmar to China. Human Rights Watch, March 2019.

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Executive Summary

All the survivors interviewed were trafficked from, and managed to return to, Myanmar’s Kachin State or the northern part of neighboring Shan State. Most were from families affected by fighting in the area between Myanmar government forces and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Desperate to support their families but with few opportunities to do so, many women feel they have no choice but to seek work in China.

Traffickers prey on their desperation. There is no system of formal employment recruitment for work in China in Kachin and northern Shan States, but there are networks of friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and relatives, offering women and girls relatively lucrative jobs on the other side of the border. Some of these jobs are real. But frequently they are enticements by traffickers planning to sell women and girls as “brides” into a life of sexual slavery.

There is a woman shortage on the other side of the border. The percentage of the population of China who are women has fallen every year since 1987. The gender gap among the population age 15 to 29 is increasing and is continuing to rise. The gender imbalance is leaving many Chinese men without wives, creating a large market for trafficked women.

Law enforcement officers on both sides of the border–including Myanmar authorities, Chinese authorities, and the KIO—have made little effort to recover trafficked women and girls. Families seeking police help to find a missing daughter, sister or wife were turned away repeatedly and often told that they would have to pay if they wanted police to act.