The great recession may be stalling the housing markets and automobile industries in countries around the world, but in China, one business is booming. The trafficking of foreign women into China for marriage is on the rise, in response to the growing gender gap China's one-child policy has created. Are these unwilling brides modern-day comfort women? Comfort women, for those not familiar, is the common name given to the (mostly) Korean and Chinese women who were forced into sexual servitude for the Japanese military around World War II. Only in the past few years has the Japanese government even acknowledged the violations which were systematically perpetrated against these women, but have refused to provide any sort of compensation to them. Today, it's China where North Korean, Vietnamese, Filipina, and other Asian women are being trafficked. And while some are forced into prostitution, many find themselves sold into a marriage. And according to some people who work with trafficked women in China, the gender gap that has catalyzed this trafficking is not going away any time soon, and the problem will continue to grow.
Women come to China in a number of different ways. Many of them are offered jobs and a chance to send money home, but find themselves sold into a forced marriage for as little as $700. Others intentionally travel to China to marry, but believe they will have the freedom to stay in touch with their family, hold a job, and exercise other rights their husband ends up taking away. Some are even kidnapped from their homes, smuggled into China, and sold as wives. Much of the bride trafficking of foreign women takes place in the rural parts of China, where the gender gap may be even more pronounced.
Stopping this form of trafficking in China is extremely challenging. The one-child policy has left China with a generation short on women and full of young men willing to buy a wife in order to marry and have a family. Many of the source countries where victims come from, like North Korea, Burma, and Laos, lack either the political will or the resources to really prevent human trafficking from their end. So the onus for preventing bride trafficking falls on China, the country demanding a supply of brides. And since they can't make a generation of Chinese women, they'll need to find a new way to deal with their one-child policy.
Today's forced marriage victims aren't as directly victimized by the Chinese government as the comfort women of the 1930s and 40s were by the Japanese government, but it was Chinese government policy which created the situation now driving most of the foreign bride trafficking in China. That makes me wonder if in 60 or 70 years, there will be a group of women waiting for an apology or compensation from China, watching as history repeats itself again.