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11-year-old Indian schoolgirl forced into domestic servitude escapes, says she was sold

The figures show a 25 percent increase in cases of human trafficking in India in 2015, with 43 percent of the 9,127 victims below the age of 18

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CHENNAI, India, September 28, 2016: An 11-year-old girl who escaped from a middle-class home where she was forced to work as a domestic help in southern India told investigators on Monday that she had been pulled out of school and sold for $15 by her family.

After she escaped from a house in Tambaram near the port city of Chennai on Sunday morning, the girl told child welfare committee officials that she was made to work in two homes round the clock, given very little to eat and was not paid or allowed to continue her schooling.

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“She scaled the wall at around four in the morning on Sunday and asked an auto-rickshaw driver for help,” said Zaheeruddin Mohamed, the member of the local child welfare committee.

“She is now in a government children’s home. A preliminary investigation indicates she was exploited, underfed and not allowed to leave.”

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Crime data released by the Indian government in August showed more than 40 percent of human trafficking cases in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern day slaves.

The figures showed a 25 percent increase in cases of human trafficking in India in 2015, with 43 percent of the 9,127 victims below the age of 18.

The crimes included inducing a young girl with the intent of sexual intercourse, buying or selling a girl for prostitution, and keeping a child as a slave.

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In her statement to the committee, the 11-year-old said she was living with her grandparents in their village in Tamil Nadu state’s Thiruvarur, nearly 300 km (190 miles) from where she was brought to work, and studying in grade seven. Her parents had abandoned her.

“The girl has told us that she was sold to an acquaintance of her mother, who made her work as a maid in his house and in his in-laws home,” Mohamed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The man who “bought” the girl runs a travel agency and registered the child as missing after she escaped.

The committee said they would file an official complaint against him with the police and he would be charged with trafficking based on the girl’s statement.

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“The girl shudders at the mention of her trafficker and when she was brought to us, she was very, very frightened,” said Mohamed.

According to her recorded statement, she was sold for just 1,000 rupees ($15). (Reuters)

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“Chinese Human Traffickers Operating Illegal Matchmaking in Pakistan”, Says Pakistan Media

The revelation prompted the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad to respond Saturday, saying the businesses are strictly prohibited under Chinese law

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FILE - A young Pakistani girl who escaped a forced marriage speaks to a reporter in the country's northwest. VOA

Pakistani media are reporting that Chinese human traffickers are operating illegal matchmaking centers in Pakistan, where they allegedly trap women from economically burdened families in fake marriages before transporting them and forcing them into prostitution or even selling their organs in China.

The revelation prompted the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad to respond Saturday, saying the businesses are strictly prohibited under Chinese law and vowing to crackdown in cooperation with Pakistani authorities on the illegal practice of profiting through cross-border matchmaking.

The number of Chinese visiting neighboring Pakistan has dramatically increased since the launch of the bilateral multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) five years ago. The flagship pilot project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has brought an unprecedented $19 billion in much-need Chinese investment to Pakistan.

News reports about phony marriages between Chinese men and Pakistani women regularly appear in local media, prompting lawmakers to debate the issue and demand that officials look into the unlawful practice.

TV report

The Chinese Embassy’s reaction apparently came a day after a top private Pakistani television station aired images Friday of several Chinese men with six local women in different rooms, including two teenage girls, at an illegal matchmaking center in the eastern city of Lahore.

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FILE – A Pakistani cyclist passes in front of a wedding hall in Peshawar. VOA

The ARY News channel crew showed up unannounced at the facility along with local police and interviewed the foreigners, their local facilitators and the alleged Pakistani wives of the Chinese men. When asked, the station said, members of the alleged gang of Chinese human traffickers failed to produce local marriage certificates or documents showing the men had converted to Islam before marrying Pakistani Muslim women, which is mandatory under local laws.

The Pakistani victims explained that in return for their marrying Chinese men, their families would get about $300 per month and a Chinese visa for male family members. The local facilitators told the TV channel they would lure families into an agreement by saying their would-be Chinese son-in-law was seeking Pakistani citizenship so he could invest in the country as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

“We remind both Chinese and Pakistani citizens to remain vigilant and not to be cheated. … We hope that the public does not believe in misleading information and works together to safeguard China-Pakistan friendship,” the Chinese Embassy said in its statement.

It noted that both countries are firmly opposed to human trafficking and sales of human organs and rejected as “misleading and groundless” reports about sales of human organs in China.

Cooperation on crackdown

“China is cooperating with Pakistani law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal matchmaking centers,” the embassy said, adding that both Chinese and Pakistani youths were victims of the illegal agents.

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FILE – Pakistani brides attend a mass marriage ceremony in Karachi. VOA

While briefing Pakistani lawmakers at one of the recent meetings, senior government officials reportedly said Islamabad was in close contact with Beijing about fake marriages and action was being taken to counter the practice. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Tariq Sardar, was quoted as telling the meeting that “some private marriage bureaus were involved in these marriages” and “most of the complaints were being received from Lahore as well as the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.”

Pakistan and China are extremely sensitive to any critical reporting on their relationship. Officials on both sides also discourage skepticism and criticism of the CPEC as well as BRI investments as Western propaganda. Beijing and China defend the CPEC as a highly productive initiative, saying it has created tens of thousands of local jobs and resolved a decade-long crippling power crisis in Pakistan.

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The United States contends China’s BRI projects are of dubious economic value and contain national security elements favoring Beijing. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was trying to warn countries about the risks. (VOA)