Many instances of Pakistani Christian women being married to Chinese men and then being forced into prostitution have emerged in several areas in Pakistan. In a recent case, a 27-year-old woman named Rimsha had reached out to her family members in Lahore via a messaging app, claiming that her Chinese husband has been physically abusing her and forcing her into prostitution.
Rimsha was reportedly married to a Chinese man who had promised that she will have a comfortable life in China. Rimsha’s family, like many Pakistani Christians, live a life of abject poverty and marginalisation. When the Chinese suitor had promised a comfortable life for Rimsha and also good jobs for her brothers, the family had delightfully agreed to get her married.
However, soon after her wedding, Rimsha was reportedly subjected to physical and mental abuse. She was reportedly forced into prostitution by her husband.
There have been several such cases reported where poor Pakistani Christian families, particularly in the eastern Punjab region, have been duped by Chinese men through marriage agencies, only to see their daughters being forced into the flesh trade.
In May, several people, including a Chinese woman and a protestant clergyman were arrested in Pakistan’s Faisalabad. The arrested people reportedly had been from a gang that used to organise weddings between Pakistani women and Chinese men, only to later sell these women into prostitution once they land in China. Fake marriage certificates, fake documents and other incriminating papers were seized by police from the eatery where the gang was organising weddings.
As per reports, the long term one-child policy and a cultural demand for male children have resulted in a severe shortage of women in many Chinese societies. The plights of the marginalised Christians often go neglected in a Muslim centric country where even the government authorities have been allegedly instructed to remain tight-lipped about the rising level of trafficking allegations among Christians.
The Associated Press had reported last month that as the Faisalabad racket targetting Christian women revealed an extended network of trafficking, the police were ordered to remain quiet over the issue for the fear of hurting economic ties with Beijing.
The report also stated that Chinese Christian pastors and brokers inside Pakistan target and pursue poor Christian girls aggressively to trap them in fake marriages and subsequent trafficking and prostitution. Pakistani Christian families, who are usually among the poorest of the poor in the country, become easy prey for the rackets who offer money, regular payment and a Chinese work-visa to one family member in exchange for the weddings.
China, however, has denied that the organised trafficking allegations. Activists working closely with victim families claim that as many as 1000 girls have been trafficked and sold into prostitution in China in the last couple of years. Natasha Masih, a 20-year-old Pakistani woman who had escaped from her Chinese husband, had claimed that she was locked in a hotel room in the remote northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi and was forced into prostitution.
After the first arrests in Faisalabad in May, it was revealed that Anas Butt, the son of an influential Muslim leader was one of the ring leaders of the rackets. Human Rights Watch had stated recently that the cases of trafficking of Christian girls from Pakistan to China are ‘disturbingly similar’ to patterns of organised trafficking of women to China from at least five Asian countries.
It is notable here that the Pakistani Christians are not the only victims of the government apathy and negligence that ignores their plight keeping the economic prospects with China as a priority. Several men in Pakistan occupied Gilgit Baltistan have also been trying to get the Pakistani government’s help in freeing their wives from Uighyur Muslim communities in China, who had been locked away in China’s detention camps.
As per reports, as many as 200 women, who are the wives of men from Gilgit Baltistan have been locked away in the so-called ‘education centres’ run by China in Xinjiang province.
Pakistani Hindus, another religious minority in the Muslim nation, also suffer from marginalisation and government apathy towards their problems. There have been many reports where minor girls from Hindu families are kidnapped by older Muslim men, often under patronage from local Madarsas. The girls are then forcibly converted and married off to older Muslim men while local police and legal authorities remain mute spectators.