Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Priceless Commodity

"The marriage migration phenomenon gained momentum after the opening of Vietnam's economy to foreign investment. In the 1990s, there was an influx of Taiwanese businessmen traveling to work in the country. They found Vietnamese women, with Confucian values similar to their own, to make suitable partners. Upon returning to Taiwan, friends and family members caught on, and opportunists realized they could turn a profit on arranging marriages."
"Sometimes the marriages do go very wrong: Vietnamese women have been tricked into sham-marriages that were just a front for organized prostitution and others have been murdered by their husbands."
"Back in 2007, when I was working to support the health and welfare of migrant brides from Vietnam, an acquaintance sent a photograph he had taken while visiting Ho Chi Minh City's District 5. It was of a poster advertising a marriage broker's services, and its bulleted text read: "She is a virgin, she will be yours in only three months, fixed price, if she escapes in the first year, guaranteed to be replaced." 
Andrew Billo, Journalist, The Atlantic

China's 35-year-old one-child policy led to girl babies being abandoned, killed in favour of their parents trying again, to have a boy child. A girl would leave to join the family of a boy she would marry. A boy would remain in the family fold when he married, and traditionally was relied upon to help support his parents in their old age, according to Chinese custom. With no choice by edict but to have only one child in a Chinese government bid to reduce population growth, people opted for boys.

The result of that, decades later, is a dearth of young Chinese women available as brides and millions of Chinese men who will never have the opportunity to find a wife and live a normal life, or anticipate raising a child of their own. Unmarried men are present in restless and unhappy abundance and they have looked abroad for potential wives with the aid of marriage brokers who guarantee suitable women at a steep price to the broker and mostly from Vietnam.

In the village of Zhongxin, Fujian Province a 29 year old man paid 50,000 yuan (roughly $10,500) to a marriage broker for his wife, Ruan Xiaoyan in November of 2015. Fang Shaojan describes his wife as hard-working. He found his marriage satisfactory. He had no notion whatever that his wife intended to abandon their marriage. But one day she said she was off to visit a Vietnamese girlfriend nearby, and she never returned.

Fang received a phonecall from a friend who informed him that his wife, along with many others had disappeared. The Vietnamese women, some of them victims of illegal immigration, some of them sold into a marriage, sometimes by their own poverty-stricken family members in this lucrative trade in human traffic are obviously less than happy as Chinese brides. Although they are called 'brides' often there is no official ceremony that takes place; it is a simple sales transaction.

Some of the women come voluntarily, but in search of work, hoping to escape the poverty of their lives in Vietnam. Their prospective husbands typically are represented by rural Chinese whose position at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder is not much of a step up for the women in a non-legally binding marriage. And some of the Vietnamese wives some among them pregnant, who had been sold into marriage, living with their husbands for less than six months, conspired to take their leave.

A farmer in Jiangxi Province named Feng lost 20,000 yuan of his savings when his Vietnamese wife ran away after 20 days and took his money along with her. He was not dissuaded from his purpose and began to save another 50,000 yuan to buy another bride. He wanted a son and if that had happened he wouldn't have minded his wife absconding with the money, leaving behind a boy child. So he is set to try again.

Other southeast Asian sources present as possibilities where wives can be bought. Women from North Korea have found themselves manoeuvred into marriage brokerage services. Alternately, living in poverty they choose to escape North Korea's abusive Kim regime to settle for life with Chinese men where they hope their lot in life may improve.

Chinese men, particularly in rural areas, have simply surrendered to the reality that  young Chinese women vastly outnumbered by men represent simply another source of business accommodation where middle-class men pay tens of thousands in 'betrothal gifts' to ensure they will be engaged for marriage, after reaching a suitable financial accommodation with the bride's parents.

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