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Full Frame: Lured into a trap

A photographer documents the victims of human trafficking on the China-Myanmar border.

Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field.

Last year Chinese police freed 268 Burmese women who had been trafficked and forced into marriages with Chinese men. Human rights activists believe that this represents only a small fraction of the growing number of Burmese forced to marry Chinese husbands. 

The causes of this disturbing trend lie both in China and Myanmar (also known as Burma). Seeking to escape Myanmar’s military regime and the horribly mismanaged economy, young women are often lured by recruiters who speak of well paid employment. Many of the victims are from rural areas near China’s Yunnan province and belong to Myanmar’s persecuted ethnic minorities.

Beijing's "one-child policy," combined with the long-held national preference for male heirs, has resulted in a grossly lopsided male to female ratio; 120:100 in 2005. The massive shortage of potential brides drives many lonely Chinese men to resort to buying a foreign spouse.  

Those women who are lucky enough to have escaped often tell a remarkably similar story. Usually they are recruited in their rural village and brought to the bustling towns on the Chinese side of the border. At this point they are handed over to another trafficker who will take them as far away as Beijing for their "job interview." The price of a bride depends on her age and beauty, but a Chinese buyer will typically pay between 40,000 to 50,000 yuan (roughly $6,000-$7,500). 

Once married, escape is difficult, as the new bride is forced to do housework or farm for long hours. Her husband or his family members watch her at all times. Those who have escaped tell stories of rape, physical abuse and dire loneliness.

About the photographer: 

Katsuo Takahashi is a Japanese freelance photographer based in Tokyo. He is a "voice of the voiceless" and shoots them to show their soul. He has been working on a documentary about Burmese migrants, which includes "Lured into a Trap."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china/100729/photos-human-trafficking-burma-myanmar