Warning: Spoiler Alert
Our August movie night was a wonderful success and we would like to once again thank the Webbers for hosting and Pat for her fantastic quiches and scones. Tricia Sung, President of OCA Georgia, our guest speaker came to talk to us about the 1882 project and a few other events she is working on, a lecture by author John Jung and ‘Day of Inclusion’ Commemorating the Repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, all posted to the site under the ‘Around Atlanta’ category. Christa Ernst provided an introduction to Blind Mountain with some background details on the Wife Trade in China and human trafficking here in Atlanta with bullet points and links to get involved listed below.
Blind Mountain turned out to be quite educational and thought provoking and we had a very good discussion about the movie afterwards. While some of us had similar initial reactions, as a group we came to realize that everyone in the film is a victim. Although Bai Xuemei is certainly victimized and abused more than the other characters, everyone is in some way a victim of the wife trade tradition, corruption and complacency. However, as Ed Krebs pointed out, these are not poor people, having been able to raise 7000 Yuan (approx $1000 U.S.) to purchase Bai in the first place. In fact, a good bit of money changes hands as everyone demands payment for any services, from a motorist who won’t give Bai, a stranded young girl, a ride to town without payment of 4 Yuan to the doctors who won’t treat a dying Bai without payment in advance. The family even has to pay taxes on a pig they no longer own. Christa also pointed out the symbolism of the goats being herded as it relates to the characters simply following the group and their traditions. It was clear that Bai’s child is not her husband’s, but we do not find out who the real father is, although it seems to be the banished teacher’s, with whom she had an affair. Even though Bai’s foolish attempts at escape and contact with her family seem naïve to us despite her education, this is not uncommon in girls her age graduating from college in China. Unfortunately, Bai’s experience as a human commodity is not unusual in rural areas as boys are valued over girls creating an unbalance of sexes that leave rural men with little or no other options than to purchase a bride in order to continue the family.
The Wife Trade in China
- Chinese Government statistics state that approximately 20,000 girls are abducted yearly for the ‘wife trade’. They range in age from 13-24.
- The demand is so great from rural villages that girls are being abducted from the neighboring nations of Korea, Vietnam and Laos.
- In 2004 (the last figures I could find) 9,000 were rescued by a police arm of the China Women’s Federation (A Chinese NGO that focuses on Women’s issues)
- Many factors contribute to the demand including- poverty (girls sold by family members for $500 – $1000 U.S.), the preference for boys in rural areas creates an uneven sex distribution nationally, the custom of selling wives is an old one only outlawed after 1949, there are no specific laws on the books preventing the practice and domestic violence laws are new and rarely enforced.
- Victims are often locked up, chained, beaten and watched by the entire village.
- Women who are abducted often submit because they are now considered ‘damaged goods’ with no other future marriage opportunities.
- A Newsweek investigative article from 1996 found that 1 in 10 homes in rural Hebei have bought a wife. Many families prefer Sichuan women because they are considered the best at raising a good family and maintaining a household.
For more information these links are very useful: http://newton.uor.edu/Departments&Programs/AsianStudiesDept/china-women.html http://www.women.org.cn/english/index.htm http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-11/27/content_7248197.htm
Human Trafficking is not limited to other nations in fact, Atlanta is considered the “Human Trafficking Capital of the U.S.” and “Sexploitation Capital of the U.S.” for more on this local issue visit The Child Trafficking Resource Project and humantrafficking.org