Pakistani mother Rita Yousaf has been through more suffering that most of us could even begin to imagine.
Growing up in an impoverished Christian family, Yousaf got married to another Chrisitan man when she was 23 years old. Being embroiled in poverty, her parents believed that marriage might well offer her a brighter future. Things started well, but once the excitement of the wedding had faded away, Rita’s husband began to show his true colors — he was incredibly violent.
Despite the beatings, and with the elusive promise that things would improve if they had kids, Rita stayed with her husband for a staggering 16 years, having four children with him. But when the violent outbursts did not cease, the terrified mother felt she had no other option but to divorce him.
From bad to worse
Plunged back into deprivation and living with her parents and four young kids in a cramped little dwelling, Rita picked up work as a maid to try and make ends meet. But it was through this job that more trouble arose of an even more serious nature.
One day, Rita’s parents were approached by a man who insisted that a wealthy Chinese businessman named Xin Pel Xu wanted to marry their daughter. While they were apprehensive about the arrangement, the parents agreed that this could help her financial situation in a life-changing way — Xu agreed to cover all of Rita’s expenses and grant her family a lavish lifestyle of luxury.
So, eventually, after some initial meetings with her family, the marriage was arranged.
“Rita was told that soon after the wedding she will be taught Chinese and then her visa process will begin, and it was agreed the wedding would be paid for by him along with all their expenses,” the British Pakistani Christian Association explained in a press release.
“He promised them a good future. Rita’s parents thought they had made amends for their mistake of choosing her first husband, Yousaf, with the choice of Xin Pel Xu as the second by securing not only their daughters future but that of her four children too.”
But following the ceremony, the situation became very strange.
Rita was “taken to a large 4-5 bedroom house in Multan Chongi, a house, shared with 6 other Chinese men and their Pakistani wives,” according to BCPA. There, it became clear that she was expected to have sex with any of the men when they demanded it.
“Rita was not even allowed to talk to the other Pakistani girls and strict monitoring of their behaviour was enforced, violation of which resulted in a bad beating and for the next three months, communication with their families was restricted,” BCPA added.
Rita was threatened with violence if she refused to sleep with the men, and was told she would face a huge financial burden if she chose to divorce her husband, as per their prenuptial agreement.
Escape against the odds
Remarkably, and despite contracting typhoid, Rita was able to escape the situation and flee back home, though the details of how exactly this occurred are sketchy.
“Since Rita’s story broke in the press, all the men went into hiding and justice for Rita has still to materialize and all the while her circumstances remain worse than before,” BCPA added.
In light of the ordeal, Mehwish Bhatti, the National Executive for British Asian Christian Association, sought to bring attention to the vast swathes of young Christian women being preyed upon by wealthy foreign nationals.
“Recent reports suggest hundreds of Pakistani Christian girls have been falsely married to sexual predators from China who have then forcibly placed the girls into sexual slavery or brutal relationships with men who are not Christian and prevent them from adhering to their faith,” he said.
Bhatti added that the marriages are “brokered as an opportunity for progress for the Christian families” but instead “leave families in great depression with mothers and fathers blaming themselves for poor choices.”
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, added that it was encouraging to see that most of the girls who had successfully escaped from the clutches of their captors were being welcomed back into their families with love and care.
“It has been heart-warming to see that every Christian girl who has escaped the brutal situations they were in, has been welcomed back to their loving families,” she said. “I pray for freedom for all the captive women and for every person who is involved in the criminal trafficking of these innocent girls to be caught and their operations terminated.”
Pakistan-China trafficking increasingly prevalent
Pakistani federal authorities have been reportedly cracking down on the human trafficking trade, though the details of their operations are being kept discreet for security reasons.
“We are interested only in stopping the trafficking. Make no mistake, this is trafficking,” said one of the officials, according to CBS News.
A lengthy Associated Press report dated June 17 features another Pakistani woman who is pictured holding up her marriage certificate to a Chinese man. She, like Rita, was forced into prostitution after being promised a better life, before managing to escape.
The frequency of cases, and the similarity of the narratives, is terrifying.
“China is denying it is happening,” said Saleem Iqbal, an activist in Pakistan’s small Christian minority, “but we are showing the proof.”
Do continue to pray for all those caught up in these dreadful situations.