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China's One Child Policy Drives Sexual Slavery -- World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

By: Reggie Littlejohn, JD

One year ago today, the United Nations established the annual World Day against Trafficking in Persons. In an official statement to commemorate this occasion, UN Women wrote:

“To prevent trafficking, we must address its root causes and the factors that increase individual’s vulnerability to trafficking, including poverty, unemployment, poor access to education and continued gender inequality.”

Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, stated, “Glaringly absent from this list of the ‘root causes’ of human trafficking is China’s One Child Policy. Gendercide under the One Child Policy has created a gender imbalance in which there are 37 to 40 million more men living in China than women. The One Child Policy is the driving force behind human trafficking and sexual slavery within China and throughout Asia and beyond.”

Earlier this month, the United States Department of State recently issued its annual Trafficking in Persons (“TIP”) report, ranking China on the Tier 2 Watch List because it is a “source, destination and transit country” for trafficked persons, and because the Chinese government, “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking . . .” The TIP report heavily implicates China’s One Child Policy in connection with China’s rampant sexual slavery problem:

“The Chinese government’s birth limitation policy and a cultural preference for sons create a skewed sex ratio of 117 boys to 100 girls in China, which may serve to increase the demand for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men – both of which may be procured by forced or coercion. Women and girls are recruited through marriage brokers and transported to China, where some are subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor.”

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The TIP report describes the far reach of sex trafficking in China: “Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, including Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as from Africa and the Americas, are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in China.”

The TIP report recommends that the Chinese government “investigate, prosecute, and impose prison sentences on government officials who facilitate or are complicit in trafficking.”

The TIP report also raises concerns about the fact that “Chinese authorities continued to forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees by treating them as illegal economic migrants – despite reports that many North Korean female refugees in China were trafficking victims . . . [these repatriated refugees] may face severe punishment, even death.”

Littlejohn concluded, “Why does the Chinese government turn a blind eye to officials who are complicit with or facilitate human trafficking and sexual slavery? Do they believe that sexual slavery is necessary because of the extreme gender imbalance they have created through the One Child Policy? My heart breaks for the young women and girls who escape the violent brutality of North Korea by slipping across the Chinese border, only to find themselves snapped up in the sex slave trade. These women and girls are utterly helpless. They can be beaten, raped and sold as prostitutes or forced brides, but there is nothing they can do about it. If they are able to escape from their captors and report their mistreatment to the Chinese authorities, they will be repatriated to North Korea, where they may be accused of treason and executed. Both China’s One Child Policy, and the unique plight of North Korean refugees in China, should be front and center in any discussion of human trafficking and sexual slavery, especially by the U.N. Women on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.”

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers’ “Save a Girl” campaign has undercover fieldworkers on the ground in China, saving girls from gendercide empowering women to keep their daughters. Learn more about this campaign here:

Related links

UN Women statement on the occasion of the first World Day against Trafficking in Persons 7/30/14

UN Women: World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 7/30/2015

Trafficking in Persons Report 2015


This article was originally published in the Women's Rights Without Frontiers Newsletter and has been reposted with permission.

Photo Credit: Women's Rights Without Frontiers

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