Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - In Vietnam, one of the modern forms of slavery involves the trafficking of young women, forced into prostitution in brothels along the border with China or sold for money as brides to men across the border. In recent years, trafficking in the Asian country has particularly involved young women and girls, some just out of puberty, increasingly treated as "new sex slaves".
On 8 February, the Church will mark the first day of prayer and reflection against human trafficking. Recent studies in Ho Chi Minh City have found that "Vietnam is one of the nations in the Asia-Pacific region with the largest number of sex trafficking victims".
Most victims of trafficking come from Vietnam's more remote regions. Often from poor families with little education, they end up in the hands of "pimps, traffickers and Chinese businessmen" who use every means to "lure and exploit girls".
However, young women from urban areas, from both both middle and lower middle class, end up in traffickers' net as well because of the Internet and modern technologies of communication.
For activist groups and associations trying to rescue the young victims, "one of the key reasons" for the growing problem is society's widespread consumerism and materialism, which eventually undermine the basic moral structure of the Vietnamese family.
Traffickers lure girls with the prospect of a job, with which they can help meet the needs of their family, but once across the border in China, they end up in brothels or as brides to Chinese men who bought them.
Before they leave, the young women are made to sign fictitious employment contracts in foreign languages (Chinese, etc.) that they cannot understand.
Hundreds of such so-called workers are hired and sold by unscrupulous traders who exploit the inability or the complicity of borders administrators and government officials charged with fighting trafficking.
Young Vietnamese men and Vietnamese women of Chinese origin are also involved in the trade. They lure their victims by winning their confidence, and getting them to move to a "new place" for a job that, in most cases, is linked to the world of prostitution.
In 2014, thousands of young women crossed the border between China and Vietnam, to be reduced in slavery and exploited in the sex trade. Last November alone, police in the provinces of Quang Tây and Vân Nam rescued a hundred young Vietnamese women, who had been reduced to conditions of semi-slavery in China.
However, there are still many difficulties, some cultural, in the fight against prostitution and the sex trade. For instance, smuggling and trafficking are treated the same way. The net results is that victims are not recognised and the culprits are not prosecuted.
Something similar happened in 2013 when, according to sources in Hanoi, at least 982 young women were "sold" in China, 871 of whom victims of "human trafficking".
Last year on 14 December, the authorities in Lai Châu, with the cooperation of border guards in Ma Lu Thang, broke up a trafficking ring involving women. About 512 people were tried with 420 sentenced to at least three years in prison.
Trafficking involves mostly young Vietnamese women, but some of the victims come from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.
For young Vietnamese men involved in trafficking, especially those living in villages along the border, trafficking in women is an easy way of making money.
One case involves two young men, Văn Pan Tao Lu, an ethnic Lu, and Lò Thị Chom. The two were paid US$ 4,000 per woman.
In another case, Bùi Đ. Giang, a young Hanoi native, tricked and induced into prostitution more than 50 young women from the villages and towns on the Chinese border, mostly from ethnic minorities.
Upon hearing the news, Bùi Đ. Tuấn, the trafficker's 52-year-old father, said he "did not know" about his son's activities and "the pain he caused to the victims," adding that "our family is in shock."
Catholic groups, both clerical and lay, are in the forefront of the fight against the trafficking of young women and against all modern forms of slavery.
"I provided help and counselling to a young victim," a social worker in Ho Chi Minh City told AsiaNews. "She was found in a Chinese brothel near the Chinese border and was brought back home."
"After three years, she ended up in China again because of an unscrupulous trafficker, where she was humiliated and sexually abused. Her bosses and torturers, men and women, forced her to take drugs and prostitute herself with Chinese customers."