Tue | Jul 16, 2019

China-Pakistan traffickers force brides into prostitution

Published:Tuesday | June 18, 2019 | 12:39 AM
Detained Chinese nationals whose alleged involvement in a trafficking gang to lure Pakistani women into fake marriages, try to shield their faces while they are escorted by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency officers to court in Lahore, Pakistan.
Pakistani Christian Natasha Masih speaks to The Associated Press in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Masih begged her mother to bring her home from China, but it took an elaborate scheme devised by a small cabal of Christian men in her hometown of Faisalabad in Pakistan’s Punjab province to orchestrate her escape from what began as an unhappy marriage, and ended in prostitution.
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FAISALABAD (AP):

At first, in her desperate calls home to her mother in Pakistan, Natasha Masih couldn’t bring herself to say what they were doing to her.

All the 19-year-old would say was that her new husband – a Chinese man her family sold her off to in marriage – was torturing her. Eventually, she broke down and told her mother the full story, pleading with her to bring her home. The husband had hidden her away in a hotel in a remote corner of China, and for the past weeks had been forcing her to have sex with other men.

“I bought you in Pakistan,” she said her husband told her. “You belong to me. You are my property.”

Her mother turned to the only people she knew who could help, her small evangelical church in a run-down slum of the Pakistani city of Faisalabad. There, a group of parishioners began putting together an elaborate plan to rescue the girl from the hotel more than 1,100 miles away.

BIG BUSINESS

Masih was one of hundreds of Pakistani girls who have been married off to Chinese men in return for cash payments to their families, most of them Christians, a community that is among the poorest of the poor in the country. The Associated Press (AP) reported previously how Christian pastors and Pakistani and Chinese brokers work together in a lucrative trade, aggressively pursuing Pakistani girls who are tricked into fraudulent marriages and find themselves trapped in China with sometimes abusive husbands.

Since then, police investigations have uncovered that many of the women are forced into prostitution in China. A picture of the extent of the trafficking networks has emerged from a series of arrests and raids in recent weeks by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, as well as testimony from victims, many of whom were previously too frightened to come forward.

The AP spoke to seven girls who had been forced into prostitution – four of them still in China.

Families are told that their daughters will be wed to well-off businessmen and given good lives in China, and the marriage trade is depicted as a benefit for all sides – impoverished parents receive money, while Chinese men find brides in a country where men outnumber women. But investigators are increasingly convinced that the majority of the girls are sold into prostitution, two law-enforcement officials familiar with the investigations told the AP.

“The girls who are interviewed say they were tortured” – using a euphemism for rape and forced prostitution, said one of the officials. “They are afraid for their families and for the disgust they fear they will feel ... . Make no mistake, this is trafficking.”