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Nang Nang Tsawm

2019 (Narrative date)

The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016 there were over 3.8 million people living in conditions of modern slavery in China. Women and girls from South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa are trafficked in to forced marriage in the country for fees of up to £30,000. The gender imbalance caused by the One Child Policy and the cultural preference for male children, has caused a shortage of women which has led to the trafficking of women to be sold as brides. As a result many women find themselves either deceived by promises of employment, sold or abducted and forced into marrying Chinese men who have paid for them.

Nang Nu Tsawm was 14 years old when she was offered work in a clothing store in Myanmar near the Chinese border, playing 50,000 kya ($38) per month. Nang Nu Tsawm and her cousin went to work there. However, after working for a week, she was drugged and sold as a bride to a 15 year old boy. She was in China for 5 years and gave birth to two children before police were alerted to her presence and arrested her for being in the country illegally. Nang Nu Tsawm was held in jail for several weeks and then deported. Her children remained with the family that bought her.

After a week there, I fainted. I think maybe they gave me some medicine or something. I don’t remember what happened. When I woke up, I heard the train and recognized that I was on the train. I don’t know how many days I had fainted or how long I was on the train. I saw only the Chinese letters. I could not read them. There were no Myanmar letters. I started crying. I saw a woman. Maybe she was a broker—I never met whoever it was who brought me on the train. She pinched my face. She was a Shan-Chinese woman. She could speak Burmese. It was me, my cousin and the woman. 

We stayed in a hotel. When we arrived the Shan-Chinese woman locked the door from the outside and warned us not to run away. She said if we try to run she will cut off our hands and legs. 

In the beginning they locked me in a room. We were both still young. In the beginning the Chinese [boy] and I slept together but we never had sex, because we did not know about it. After two months, his parents took us and checked in the hospital to see if I was pregnant or not. They saw—no pregnancy. Then the mom complained. She talked to her son—my husband—and gave him some sex films to watch. Then, after he watched some kinds of movies, we started having sex.


One of the Shan girls who was also trafficked in the same neighborhood ran away to the police station. She reported it to a policeman. The policeman knew about her then. The police went to me and took me from the Chinese man’s house and sent us both [her and the Shan woman] to jail. 

[Nang Nu Tsawm was jailed with 10 other trafficked women]

There was no interpreter. The Chinese policeman asked me why I was there with no passport or ID card. ‘This means you are taking advantage of living in our land.’ They told us, ‘People like you should be killed.

We crossed illegally back into Myanmar. Each border gate has a fence along the border side, but sometimes there is a hole in the fence. So, the Chinese policemen forced us to cross through the hole in the fence. On the other side we had to find our way back home ourselves.

When I arrived home I missed my children so much.

 When I arrived back to my family, the family members thought that I was human trafficked and that I was killed, and they assumed I would never come back.


Narrative provided by Human Rights Watch in their report “Give Us a Baby and We’ll Let You Go”: Trafficking of Kachin “Brides” from Myanmar to China