Teenaged Hmong girls – most of them still children – are being forcibly taken in their thousands from the mountains of northern Vietnam, to be sold as brides and prostitutes in China.
Deception is a major element of these abductions. The girls are betrayed by friends and family members, people they trust and perhaps even love.
But what happens to these girls after the trap is sprung, and they are taken from their homes?
How are they taken across an international border, into a foreign country, and what happens to them there?
The abductions are often carried out by young men with motorbikes. A girl may be tricked into climbing onto the bike, or she may be drugged.
She will commonly be sandwiched between the driver and an accomplice on the back of the bike. The bike will often be driven at speeds that make it unsafe for the girl to try and jump for her freedom.
There is no need for traffickers to bribe officials, to pass official border points. Vietnam shares a 1,306 km (812 mile) border with China, through terrain which is remote, mountainous and very difficult to police effectively.
This is the land inhabited by the Hmong people. Originally from China, Hmong groups now live in the mountains on both sides of the border.
In many places, the border itself is nothing more than a narrow river, where a kidnapped girl can be carried across in a boat, or even on foot. In other places, the border can be crossed via trails through the mountains, by foot or motorbike.
Abductions will generally be timed so that a girl is taken in the late afternoon or evening, so the border will be crossed under the cover of darkness. In some cases, the victim doesn’t even realise she has left Vietnam until many hours later.
Sometimes the girls are abducted with a specific purpose in mind, and will be trafficked through a criminal network directly to their destination – most often a brothel in southern China.
These brothels, managed by organised crime groups, have an endless demand for fresh girls.
Ideally, these girls are barely pubescent. Some will be forced to undergo surgery – on their breasts and faces – to make them more attractive to the men who will rape them dozens of times each day.
Without any legal status, without anyone to protect them, these girls have already disappeared from the eyes of the world. They have become objects, and are treated as such.
These girls have a shelf life of just a few years, before their bodies and their minds are broken. Many will commit suicide by any means possible, and extremely few will ever see their homes and families again.
One way or another, they will be used and discarded, then replaced by younger, fresher girls – the next in line to be consumed by the endless, insatiable hunger of 700 million men.
This happened yesterday. It is happening today – right now, as you read this – and it will happen again tomorrow, unless we do something to stop it.
There is a colossal demand for girls in China – and not only as sex objects. There are countless other girls, too, sold for other purposes…
What becomes of those girls? Is there any hope for them?
I’ll be looking at what becomes of the other girls in the coming weeks – to learn more about this monstrous and largely-ignored issue, subscribe here.
For the past month, we’ve been raising funds to finish ‘Sisters For Sale’, a feature documentary exposing this inhuman trade in human lives, and to launch a human trafficking prevention program to protect vulnerable girls in high-risk villages of Vietnam.
So far, 566 of you have contributed a total of $20,469 – it’s a fantastic effort, but it’s not enough. Traffickers have billions of dollars behind them, and all we’ve got is each other.
We can make a very real difference in the lives of countless young women in danger – but we need your support, and we need it now. Every little bit makes a difference, so please, give whatever you can.
There are only four more weeks for us to reach our $56,000 target, and for you to get a very special sneak peek at ‘Sisters For Sale’. Check it out now, at sistersforsale.com
For telling your friends about our campaign, you can win the experience of a lifetime in the mountains of northern Vietnam, including all meals and accommodation for a month – see the details here.