How much does a mail order bride cost? An entry on Wikipedia had the best response: “the answer is like answering how much it costs to buy a car. It depends on what you are willing to spend.” The multibillion dollar ‘bride for sale’ industry is massive. It’s estimated there are as many as 10,000. internet sites worldwide offering brides (one site listed subscriptions in 128 countries). In most countries, mail-order bride publications are legal which means it is not really considered a sensitive topic or very unusual for a woman to marry a man she has never met. It is in this kind of environment that girls become vulnerable to trafficking.
There are many factors driving demand for foreign fiancées. In some countries for example, there is a skewed sex ratio (meaning many more men than women), as a result of things such as son preference and female infanticide. This means men are left without much choice for a potential partner. This can be particularly problematic where there is social pressure for men to marry. There is also the issue of Western men looking for something a bit different in a potential partner- perhaps someone small and quiet and half his age? They can probably find someone like that quite easily in the Philippines. And then there is the supply side, where gender inequality means women have less chance to earn money, and many may see marrying someone from a developed country as a way to access a different kind of world.
True some cases might have a romantic happy ending. But another reality is also clear. Nika thought her future was bright when she flew to Canada from the Philippines as a bride to the owner of a booming taxi business. Soon after Nika arrived thanks to the ‘sponsorship’ of her husband Tom, things began to fall apart. For one, she learned she was his fifth wife. He beat her, restricted her right to use the phone, and even controlled her diet. Such stories hardly reflect the classic romantic comedy bearing the same name as one company A Foreign Affair, which has claimed responsiblity for an engagement or marriage every week offering a drop-down menu away from “happily ever after.”
And if a 19 year old Filipina girl finds a new home is an apartment in Seoul, Korea, she may learn that her new husband paid $2000 to a matchmaking service and wants his money’s worth. A trafficker knows that once imported, a wife will have nowhere to turn and with little grasp of the language and other isolating factors, if she runs, she also run the risk of being forced to return to what she chose to leave. The way she is marketed may have created the impression she is a commodity- if she does not live up to her often sexy/obedient portrayal, she might face conflict; and her dependence for immigration status and financial support and lack of knowledge of alternative choices may make her trapped in a potentially violent situation.
A 15 year old girl who helped research this topic says “often, girls the same age as me are sold as brides, and they have little or no understanding of sex or independent life. It upsets me to think that girls the same age as me are being trafficked, after having been tricked that they are going to marry a man who will love them and will give them a better life.”
What are your thoughts?
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