There has been a substantial increase in trafficking of women from Tibet to Chinese provinces, says Radio Free Asia (RFA). From 12 recorded complaints of trafficking of women and children in 2010, the number increased to 37 in 2011. Given the prevalence of hyperbolic propaganda in China and China-occupied Tibet and the evasive nature of official reports making any numbers hard to both trust and verify, it is significant that this police report has acknowledged a growing problem of Tibetan women forced into marriage, domestic slavery or prostitution in China.
It has become increasingly common for women to seek a better life or seek means to support their families outside of Tibetan areas, particularly nomadic women whose families have been moved into housing settlements and forced into a cash economy, with their centuries old skills suddenly useless (see Purging the Treasure House: displacement & the status of the Tibetan nomad, 2011). These women are usually poor, illiterate and fluent in only the Tibetan language, making them particularly vulnerable in Chinese communities. This is against a backdrop of China’s sex ratio crisis and demand for brides.
These women’s fortunes are exacerbated by Chinese state media reports of rural Tibetans as backwards and uncivilized, dependant on state handouts and undeserving of equal treatment in a capitalist society where prosperity can be hard won for all citizens.
According to RFA, more than half of the 72 countries in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (just a portion of Tibet’s occupied territory) have struggled with trafficking problems; whilst there are 37 recorded incidents this number is worringly realistically far greater across all Tibetan areas and including the many incidents that are likely to remain unreported.
With the crisis in Tibet continuing – reported self-immolations currently total over 50 – Tibetans are resorting to desperate actions under repressive Chinese policies. Sadly this new finding brought to light by RFA is merely the latest evidence of the imperative for greater freedom and drastically improved social policies in Tibet and other ethnic minority areas Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.