News/Asia: Rise in women forced to work as sex slaves

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Subject: News/Asia: Rise in women forced to work as sex slaves
From: A. Jordan (
Date: Mon Aug 16 1999 - 11:07:05 EDT

South China Morning Post, August 11, 1999

Rise in women forced to work as sex slaves
By Huw Watkin

Hanoi -- Young women and girls are increasingly being forced into sexual
slavery abroad, with Cambodia, China and Taiwan emerging as the main
markets in what welfare groups say is an increasingly serious regional

Evidence suggesting Vietnam is being targeted by the international vice
trade is largely anecdotal so far, but at least three global
organisations want tougher penalties and more co-operation between
regional governments to stem the trade.

Concern intensified this week when figures revealed that more than
12,000 young Vietnamese women had "married" Taiwanese men between 1996
and 1998, with close to 50 per cent of them saying they had done so for
economic reasons.

According to an official study reported in the Tuoi Tre newspaper
yesterday, the marriages were arranged by intermediaries for up to
US$12,000 (HK$93,000), and there is growing concern about the link
between "mail-order brides" and prostitution.

"False marriages and mail-order brides are often used as camouflage to
bring women to work in overseas brothels, and the victims of this sort
of trafficking find it difficult to argue in court that they are, in
fact, victims," said Vu Ngoc Binh of Unicef.

"Huge profits can be made by forcing women into prostitution, and
people-smuggling is a much less risky activity for criminals than other
forms of crime, because many countries deport victims immediately,
thereby losing valuable witnesses," she said.

Experts in the field say that despite existing conventions, formulating
workable domestic legislation in order to fight the trade is difficult
because Vietnamese women often enter into prostitution abroad
voluntarily with the expectation of making money quickly and then
getting out of the industry.

"Many women from South Vietnam are known to be working by choice as
prostitutes in Cambodia," said Jette Kjertum of the International
Organisation for Migration (IOM).

"But in many cases brothel owners will confiscate their immigration
papers and force them to pay exorbitant commissions - basically they end
up as sex slaves."

Ms Binh said growing prosperity in some parts of Asia was fuelling the
demand for commercial sex, and the IOM said China in particular was
emerging as a huge market for arranged marriages.

"Men outnumber women by between 15 and 20 million in China, and with the
country's emerging status as an economic power, China is set to become a
major destination for trafficked women and mail-order brides," said Ms

China, Cambodia and Thailand have joined a UN-sponsored project designed
to stem the trade in women, but Vietnam, Laos and Burma are reported to
be still considering the initiative.


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