Many of us look forward to marriage, to finding that special someone we can share our lives with.
The Hmong girls of northern Vietnam share the same dream: only for these girls, courtship can be a game of life or death – or worse.
Over the past weeks, I’ve been looking at the incredible dangers and difficulties facing the Hmong women of northern Vietnam.
I’ve examined the violent custom of marriage by abduction, including a real-life example featured in ‘Sisters For Sale’, our documentary to raise awareness of the global human trafficking crisis.
Last week, I looked at the extreme hardships these women typically face in Vietnam.
As prime targets for human trafficking networks, life for these women could be worse – much worse.
The traffickers who tear their lives apart can be friends and family members – people they trust and perhaps even love.
Very often, it will be a young man from another village, who will make romantic advances towards the girl.
Perhaps he will be well-dressed, or even have his own motorbike, and seem like a better catch than the girl might find in her own village.
His courtship might last a matter of days, weeks or even months.
All the young man needs is to win enough trust from the girl that she will climb on the back of his motorbike, and she may never be seen again.
Many victims claim to have been drugged by their abductors – perhaps they sat down for a drink or a bite to eat, and woke up in a strange place, far from home.
This is not an unusual story – it has repeated itself in endless variations, countless thousands of times, in northern Vietnam alone.
In 2010, I was living in Sapa, northern Vietnam. A group of 9 or 10 teenaged Hmong girls would sit on the corner of my street, selling treks and handicrafts to tourists.
Within two years, in separate incidents, no less than 5 of those girls were betrayed, stolen and sold in China.
With so many of their friends disappearing, the young women became suspicious of young men from other villages – but the traffickers were one step ahead.
The traffickers made contacts within the local communities who, for a share of the profits, would introduce the traffickers to potential targets, and help build the necessary trust.
These local contacts could be anyone – old or young, male or female, a friend or even a family member – and for the young Hmong women, there’s no knowing who to trust.
How are these young women taken across an international border, and what happens to them in China?
These are the issues I’ll be exploring in the coming weeks – to learn more, subscribe here.
How can this terrible trade in human lives be stopped?
The stories of my trafficked friends are featured in ‘Sisters For Sale’, our feature documentary to raise awareness of the international human trafficking crisis.
For the next 30 days, as part of our fundraising campaign to finish ‘Sisters For Sale’, you can get a very special sneak peek at the film for only $1.
When the campaign ends, so does access to the film, and you won’t have another chance to see ‘Sisters For Sale’ for at least another 12 months, when the final version is released.
You can help us end a human trafficking crisis, help yourself to some great rewards, and win the experience of a lifetime living amongst the Hmong people of northern Vietnam – for details, check out sistersforsale.com!
Our campaign has so far raised $18,582 from 492 supporters around the world, and I’d like to thank each and every one of you who have contributed so far.
Your contribution will also fund a human trafficking prevention program amongst high-risk villages of northern Vietnam.
Watch the ‘Sisters For Sale’ trailer in English, Spanish, French and German.
Subscribe here to receive all the news on ‘Sisters For Sale’.