‘Sisters For Sale’ – Human Trafficking in China



The consequences of China’s ‘one child’ law have hit hard and it’s not just China that’s suffering for it.


Perhaps you’ve seen some photos from the photography series ‘The Human Earth Project’ floating around the web, where photographer Ben Randall travelled across Asia to re-photograph the people he’d met a few years earlier. A few years ago Ben tried to get in contact with some of the young girls he had encountered on his journey, only to find out that they were missing. When he delved deeper into the mystery of their disappearance what he uncovered was a horrifying development.


In the 1970s, the one child policy was introduced in China after a worrying increase in population. In accordance with the policy, parents that adhered to it would receive financial support and preferential employment opportunities, while those that didn’t faced incredible fines, having their belongings and home seized, forced abortions and sterilizations. In some cases, children born to families that violated the policy were even denied education. China, and thousands of young girls, suffered terribly. The amount of female infanticide skyrocketed, with Chinese girls being twice as likely to die in their first year of life as boys and this probability tripled for second girls. Child trafficking became a burgeoning industry, with thousands of babies being sold to orphanages, forced into labour situations or sold abroad.

Almost forty years later, China’s population is roughly 51.2% male. Although that might seem like an underwhelming percentage the reality is that there is more than a difference of 34,000,000 between the amount of men and the amount of women. Because there aren’t enough women to marry these men that are now of marrying age, certain industries are booming – specifically the sex industry and human trafficking industry. Young women and girls from neighbouring countries and around the globe are being kidnapped by gangs of men, transported to China, and forced into either marriage or prostitution. Sometimes these kidnappers may engage the woman romantically, luring them away from their families with the promise of marriage and eventually selling them.

In Myanmar alone, 80% of a total of 641 trafficking cases between 2006 and 2010 involved transportation of women into China and 69.7% resulted in a forced marriage.


One of the more disturbing elements of these kidnappings is the culture that it’s infiltrating. In the culture of the Hmong people it is traditional for a groom to kidnap his bride before the wedding. Often he, his family and his friends would plan an attack to kidnap her and take her to his home where the women of his family convince her to marry him and restrain her to stop her from escaping. Nowadays this tradition is seen as mostly symbolic and doesn’t necessarily indicate a forced marriage, although it is still frowned upon in many communities. However, a lot of these kidnappers that traffic to China are exploiting this tradition in order to avoid scrutiny and kidnap young women and girls in public. This is especially common in Vietnam. The families of these girls often assume that, when they disappear, they are getting married and it might take days for them to realise that something has happened to them. When the girls finally get in contact they have no idea where they are and have no means of escape.



Ben Randall has been doing everything he can to publicise this issue. Putting his photography career on hold, he has picked up a film camera and is in the process of making a documentary to highlight the stark reality of what’s going on. ‘Sisters For Sale’ is an in depth documentary about these young girls; who they are; what is happening to them and what can be done to put an end to trafficking. For years he has been dedicating his life and money to this project, facing all odds and dangers that stand in his path. The first step to putting an end to this problem is making sure people know about it.

You can watch the full trailer of his documentary here

If you want to donate to Ben Randall’s campaign and help him make this incredible documentary, you can do so at his Indiegogo page here. Every donation counts and the documentary is almost finished.

You can also read Ben’s blog here and follow the making of the film, how it started and the people that need it.


Words: Alicia Hempsted


Tags: #documentary #photojournalism #film #sistersforsale

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