Local and foreign brokers are on the prowl to traffic ethnic minority girls to China for marriage with Chinese men, Bangladesh embassy in Beijing said in an alert to the government.
Bangladesh embassy, with support from the foreign ministry in Dhaka, rescued three girls from China and sent them home recently.
Traffickers allure victims assuring them of decent life in China by arranging their marriage Chinese businessman or rich public service holders, Bangladesh diplomats in Dhaka and Beijing said.
Dream of the brides gets shattered when they face harsh reality after their arrival in China with huge difference between the sweet words of the traffickers and their life with the Chinese grooms, they said.
Mithila Chiron, a 23-year-old Garo girl, [not her real name] was enticed by Pinky, who assured her of a decent and happy life in China if she married a Chinese businessman. She was also assured of Chinese citizenship.
Allured by the brokers in early 2018, Mithila went to a restaurant at Uttara in Dhaka to meet her groom-to-be. She saw seven to eight ethnic minority girls over there and most of them were from three hill districts of Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban. They too came to meet their groom-to-be for the first time.
About eight Chinese men reached there.
Mizan, a partner of Pinky in trafficking, prepared documents of ‘marriage’ and took Mithila’s signature after about three days and declared that Mithila got married to the Chinese national.
The Chinese man took her to China within one month and started living at a place about 200 kilometres away from Beijing.
After going to China, she observed that her ‘husband’ was actually a construction worker although she was told that he was a businessman. He kept her under lock and key all the time. He was also reluctant to fulfil her basic needs, including food.
It was difficult for her to adapt to the situation with unfamiliar Chinese language and unfamiliar food. The Chinese man too was not fluent in English.
The Chinese man was habituated to consume uncooked fish and meat and get drunk. He was fully unwilling to manage rice and vegetables for her.
She later came to know that the Chinese man paid about Tk 20 lakh to the traffickers to ‘marry’ her.
He took away her passport, tortured her and broke her phone as she protested against torture and dispossession of her passport. She eventually got sick.
He raped her paying no heed to her sickness and meeting basic needs, including food.
In the beginning, Mithila did not inform her family in Dhaka about the situation she was facing in China.
As her phone with internet connection was broken and her family could not contact her for over a week, her sister contacted the foreign ministry in Dhaka.
The foreign ministry conveyed the matter to the Bangladesh embassy in Beijing for seeking urgent support from the Chinese authorities.
The Chinese police responded positively and talked to the Chinese man and Mithila, producing no redress as he continued to torture her.
She somehow managed to use an old phone and a duplicate key of the house. She contacted her family in Dhaka through a social media app and urged to rescue her.
The family, at the advice of the foreign ministry in Dhaka, sent her the address of the Bangladesh embassy in Beijing and suggested her to anyhow escape from the house and go to the embassy.
She, somehow, met a Chinese woman who knew little English. The Chinese woman suggested her to manage some money to avail a taxi to reach Beijing as the victim did not have passport which was essential for foreigners to travel by train or bus.
Mithila managed some money selling her ornaments for taxi fare.
In an early morning, she secretly left the house as the Chinese man, who drank heavily in the previous night, was in deep sleep. She ran for about 20 minutes up to the main road.
It took more than an hour to get a taxi that reached Mithila to Bangladesh embassy in Beijing tactfully passing the police checkpoints along the highway as she had no passport with her.
The Bangladesh embassy, following an advice from the foreign ministry in Dhaka, provided her with shelter at the embassy for about 21 days until paperwork was completed with the Chinese authorities for ensuring her safe journey to home. She reached home on July 15 and the foreign ministry bore her airfare.
‘We had to remain very tactful in the entire process as she, without any passport, could have been charged with illegal entry to China, a diplomat said.
Foreign ministry officials said that they were engaged with the Chinese embassy in Dhaka and found them positive in the process to get the girl back home.
Bangladesh embassy in Beijing in May drew the government’s attention to the matter describing it as a ‘serious issue’ as girls were trafficked to marry into servitude.
A Bangladeshi diplomat in Beijing said that they rescued three victims and got surprised to know that they were educated girls. Mithila was an undergraduate student in Dhaka.
Some other ethnic minority girls might have become victims of trafficking in bride as Mithila informed Bangladesh diplomats in Beijing that she saw several girls from Chittagong Hill Tracts on her flight to Beijing, an official said.
Well-organised rackets comprising Bangladeshi and Chinese brokers are involved in trafficking making the victims fool, said a diplomat.
Marriage to a foreign national required to be completed under the Special Marriage Act 1872, as well as to be registered by a special marriage registrar.
Mithila’s marriage was ‘not legal’ as it was possibly not registered by a special marriage registrar, said an official.
She could not be trafficked had the airport immigration maintained a high degree of alertness with checking and rechecking all documents including marriage certificates and visas, the official said.
Special marriage registrars also require playing role to contain trafficking in bride they said.
Mithila’s sister confirmed New Age that her sister was a victim of bride trafficking to China and returned home safely.
Asked if they sought any legal actions against Pinky and Mizan, the sister said that they did not sue them as her sister wanted to avoid hassles. ‘We are not sure whether Pinky and Mizan were their real names,’ she said.
Mithila resumed her study in information communication technology as a part of her preparation for starting a new life, the sister added.
Vietnamese, Cambodian, Myanmarese and Laotian women were target of Chinese men for marrying, a diplomat said, adding that now Bangladeshi ethnic minority girls became their target.
New Age contacted the mobile phone numbers of Mizan and Pinky. Mizan’s phone was switched off. A female attended another number and claimed that she was not Pinky.
When contacted, foreign ministry consular and welfare wing director general Nahida Rahman Shumona told New Age on Wednesday, ‘We were able to bring one girl back [in July] as her family approached us for help. There may be others, who have been trafficked in brides and may not be in congenial atmospheres and may not have ways to seek help.’
She said, ‘We need massive campaign to create awareness.’
When contacted, a Chinese embassy official said that they observed that more and more Chinese and Bangladesh citizens were getting married. The embassy hoped that relevant marital behaviours to be in line with the laws and regulations, with respect to partner’s living habits and religion.
The Chinese authorities ‘will have zero tolerance to any violation of law in this regard, and will act firmly against it,’ the Chinese diplomat added.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that there would be up to 40 million more Chinese men of marrying age compared to Chinese women. Scarcity of marriageable women has driven many Chinese men to procuring wives from abroad, according to ASEAN Post.
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