In March, 2005, an interesting news article appeared in The Star (a Malaysian newspaper): Factory of Virgin Brides:
In an industrial suburb in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a single-story zinc-roofed factory staffed by 3,500 young women churns out items like sports shoes and polo T-shirts for foreign brands. It is not unlike hundreds of other factories, except this one has something else: virgin brides for foreign men.
The Mr Cupid International Matchmakers service was the brainchild of the factory’s owner, a reclusive semi-retired Vietnamese man in his 40s. While businesses offering brides are hardly rare, the idea of using eligible young virgins as workers while they wait for husbands is almost certainly unique.
At first, the factory hired scouts to scour the countryside for suitable virgin village girls they could advertise to foreign bachelors through their agencies in countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia.
Now they don’t have to go looking. Parents bring their daughters to them. Girls like willowy 20-year-old Huynh Thi Phuong Thuy put up with long shifts sewing shirts and gluing shoes hoping it is a first step to marriage. “I went to work in the factory because I wanted to marry a foreign man,” she said in a phone interview.
Phuong Thuy got what she wanted. She married a 40-year-old Singaporean storeman last July and now lives in Jurong. “Life in Singapore is much better than back in Vietnam,” she said.
But the factory won’t take just anyone. In fact, there are strict quality controls. New arrivals are given the once-over by matronly female supervisors who look out for tell-tale signs of previous pregnancies, such as stretch marks or caesarean scars. Those who fail are sent back. Those chosen are given a medical examination to check that their hymen is still intact. If it isn’t, they are rejected.
After being hired, the women are expected to work hard and behave well. Female supervisors at the factory penalize lazy, talkative or rebellious girls by barring them from matchmaking sessions. No work, no husband.
Said Martin Wong, managing director of Mr Cupid’s Singapore office: “These girls are marrying abroad. They have to be obedient to their husbands. We’re preparing them for their new lives.”
Before she got married, Phuong Thuy used to work 12-hour shifts seated on bare floors, earning less than RM11 a day. But despite the long hours, most village girls find life at the factory easier than working the paddy fields, plantations or shrimp farms back home, where many of them had no electricity or running water, ate one meal a day and bathed in river or rainwater.
So far, Mr Cupid has found brides for around 1,800 men in the region, 300 of them in Singapore. The girls are given photographs of the men and they choose whether they want to go for the matchmaking session. After that, the decisions are down to the men.
The process can be brutal. In one case, 2,200 girls wanted to be set up with a Taiwanese businessman.It all seems like a brilliant business plan, anyway.
“Can you imagine, they’re so hopeful. They stay back in the dormitories, dress up and they only have two seconds to impress before they’re turned away,” said Wong, in an interview at Mr Cupid’s second-floor office at Pearl’s Centre in Eu Tong Sen Street, Singapore. If the groom makes his choice, the rest of those in the queue are sent back.
It sounds degrading, but Wong insists the young women are willing. “They’re born in a poor country. For many of them, this is their only chance to break out of poverty,” he said.
For many, it is a long wait. Out of the 3,500 girls working at the factory, only about 300 get hitched each year.
The prettier ones usually get chosen within six months, while some have gone for more than 200 matchmaking sessions without success.
Most quit after two or three years and go back home if they haven’t been chosen, said Wong. Some cling on. The oldest worker there is a 35-year-old seamstress, who faithfully works her shifts and lives in hope of being picked one day.
For the women, it is a factory job, with a shot at fulfilling the Cinderella fantasy. At least in the Disney version of Cinderella, all of the maidens in the kingdom are invited to the palace so that Prince Charming will select one to marry and turn into a princess--the prince's selection based purely on how pretty and charming he finds her, with some points possibly added for how well she comports herself while dancing. The immediate "rags to riches" outcome. Of course, in those days, a real prince would only marry another blue-blood, the marriage having been arranged by the parents for political considerations. The case of a king marrying a commoner (as in Ann Boleyn) generally didn't bode well. However, there would have been nothing to stop a king or prince from having coitus with any of the maidens of his realm.
Another possible issue for Vietnamese women, as reported in the Thanhien News in April, 2011:
...Danièle Bélanger, a sociologist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, has conducted extensive research on women's issues in Vietnam. Bélanger found that some young Vietnamese women want to marry abroad to avoid domestic violence at home..."Domestic violence is widespread in rural Vietnam and is accepted as a fact of life by many...This is a problem... So fears of having a husband who does not work, drinks, gambles and who is violent actually pushed some young women to marry abroad."...Moreover, the parents of the bride can generally look forward to life-long financial support, which would be much greater than if their daughter were to marry a local villager. For the women, this is probably better than being sold to a brothel, which happens to millions of girls (and boys) in Southeast Asia.
Most modern professional men feel compelled to display insane levels of dedication and passion to their employers--especially in many Asian countries. They thus have little time for romance, dating, and similar hanky-panky. Often when they hit approximately the age of 30, many men feel that it is time to get married, and they seek to accomplish this with a minimum of drama and without distraction to their professional lives. With their two weeks of annual leave (if they even get that much), they can spend a few days in Vietnam, select a willing wife who is a virgin, and they are done with it. Mission accomplished.
For the business owner, it makes tremendous sense. The women are willing and eager to work harder for him, and for less money, than if they didn't have a shot at the Cinderella outcome. Plus, men pay him fees that amount to thousands of dollars.
In many parts of the world, marriages are still typically arranged by the parents. Whether one follows the elaborate courtship procedures of the United States, or the more simple "pick the one you fancy" style offered at the factory in Vietnam, or whether it is the parents who make the selection, hopefully the result is lifelong wedded bliss.
From Paul Bentley of the UK Mail:
Why an Arranged Marriage is More Likely to Develop into Lasting LoveThe Unification Church is very big on arranged marriages.
...According to research, those in arranged marriages – or who have had their partner chosen for them by a parent or matchmaker – tend to feel more in love as time grows, whereas those in regular marriages feel less in love over time. And within ten years, the connection felt by those in arranged marriages is said to be around twice as strong.
Relationship experts claim this is because arranged matches are carefully considered, with thought going into whether potential partners’ families, interests and life goals are compatible. This means they are more likely to commit for life – and to stick together through rocky patches.
Those who marry for love, on the other hand, tend to be blinded by passion and so overlook these crucial details. When the going gets tough, they are more likely to view the situation simply as a natural end to their romantic dream – a way of fate telling them something is wrong with the relationship.
With soaring divorce rates and record numbers of single-parent households in the West, researchers suggest it is time to rethink the Western approach to love....
...feelings of love in love matches begin to fade by as much as a half in 18 months, whereas the love in the arranged marriages tends to grow gradually, surpassing the love in the unarranged marriages at about the five-year mark. Ten years on, the affection felt by those in arranged marriages is typically twice as strong.
Dr Epstein believes this is because Westerners leave their love lives to chance, or fate, often confusing love with lust, whereas those in other cultures look for more than just passion. He said: ‘The idea is we must not leave our love lives to chance. We plan our education, our careers and our finances but we’re still uncomfortable with the idea that we should plan our love lives. I do not advocate arranged marriages but I think a lot can be learned from them. In arranged marriages, thought goes into the matching. In the West, physical attraction is important. But people must be able to distinguish lust from love. Strong physical attraction is very dangerous, it can be blinding.
‘In the West marriages are easy to get out of. But in arranged marriages, the commitment is very strong. They get married knowing they won’t leave, so when times are harder – if they face injury or trauma – they don’t run away. It brings them closer.’
Francine Kaye, relationship expert and author of The Divorce Doctor, added: ‘There is an awful lot to be said for arranged marriages. They are determined to make it work. I have seen in arranged marriages in the Orthodox Jewish community that the parents very carefully look at compatibility – it is not left to chance. They do their homework on their characteristics, their values, morals and life goals.
‘It should be pointed out that arranged marriages work because culturally marriage is seen differently. We have a very romantic view of marriage. Theirs is more pragmatic...
And, from Diana Nabiruma of The Observer:
Why Arranged Marriages Last LongerYou may watch online a documentary called Match Made by Singaporean film-maker Mirabelle Ang (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1422199/). The documentary follows a middle-age Singaporean man who travels to Vietnam to select a wife. Heavens, what a selection. It appears to be as much fun as Castle Anthrax.
India is said to have a success marriage rate of 90-98.9%.
Is this because most of the marriages are simply arranged? While it might appear so, an Indian woman who didn’t want to be named says this is not necessarily the case. She attributes the Indian marriage success rate to tolerance.
Where you find an educated, independent woman taking no crap, or what she considers crap, from her husband, a traditional Indian girl will withstand a lot of hardship in the name of keeping a marriage intact.
Besides, Indians generally believe that marriages are “made in heaven”; they are not to be broken. So, even if a spouse is terrible to another, the abused spouse will sit it out because she/he does not want to break the marriage bond.
A Sanyu FM listener recently attested to this fact. He wrote into the breakfast show, saying his wife’s patience had turned him from a bad husband to a good one. This caller, of Indian origin, says he had been dating a Ugandan when his parents told him they had organized a marriage for him back home.
The marriage took place, though he was resentful of her. When he returned home with his bride, he embarked on being a bad husband. He cheated, was indifferent, went home late but his wife was good to him; she always waited on him and never questioned him.
He says that her subservience and tolerance won him over. He could not continue being bad to a person that was good to him and eventually, he turned into a good husband. To him, arranged marriages don’t last because they are arranged; rather, it is about tolerance and the belief that marriages are from the Indian God.
The protagonist of the documentary lives with his parents in Singapore, and wants a wife to take care of him and his aging mother. In America, a middle-aged man who lived with his parents would be labeled a "loser", and have zero chance for romance, particularly if he expected his wife to take care of his mother. I sure wouldn't want to marry the guy in the documentary--he seems a bit strict, and what if his mother didn't like me?
It is customary for a Chinese wife to take care of her husband's parents. The trouble is, in Singapore (as in the USA), a lot of women are doing a lot better in school and in their careers than a lot of men, most women want to marry up (rather than down), and not many modern Singaporean maidens want to take care of a poorer man's mother. This leaves a lot of Singaporean bachelors, like the salesman in the documentary, with few options. Similarly, it is probably impossible to find a 21-year-old American woman who is a virgin. She would be regarded as a freak. But, in Asia, men want virgin wives, and women want to remain virgins until marriage.
Here is a brief news report on Vietnamese virgin brides in Singapore
Taiwan has been one of the major importers of Vietnamese wives:
...The circumstances of the Vietnamese that go to Taiwan as brides are depressingly common. Most brides originate from the remote countryside of Vietnam. It has been observed that more than half of the Vietnamese women recruited into migrant marriages come from the rural Mekong Delta region. As is also common in labor migration, the primary motivation in most migrant marriages, from the female perspective, is economy and security. The majority of Vietnamese women come from families that suffer from unpaid debts, bad seasons of crop, or jobless family members. Marriage brokers who promise a life of prosperity overseas lure women to Taiwan. While a Taiwanese man may pay up to $10,000 USD to arrange for a migrant marriage, the woman’s family may only see as little as $100 USD of that money. The broker absorbs the rest. Nevertheless, most women, in agreeing to marriage, are under the impression that they will be able to find work in Taiwan and send money back to their families in Vietnam. In one survey of origin households in Vietnam, researchers asked the parents of marriage migrants why their daughters chose to migrate to Taiwan. The top three answers reported were “To help the family” (61.6%), “For a better life” (10.8%), and “To make parents happy” (6.3%)....Patriarchal: Oh, dems fightin' words! to the Western Feminist.
Taiwanese men who marry women from Southeast Asia are typically drawn from a less educated and disadvantaged population. While Taiwanese husbands tend to have more education than their Vietnamese brides, they still fall below the average levels of education in Taiwan. Many times a man can be more than a decade, or possibly two to three decades, older than his migrant bride. Seventy percent of Vietnamese brides are under 23 years of age, while over eighty percent of their Taiwanese grooms are aged over 30. All of these factors (lack of education, disadvantage, and advanced age) typically contribute to trouble in finding a bride locally and thus increase the desire to enter a migrant marriage. For many Taiwanese men, migrant marriages can seem like an easy solution to their household troubles, as a wife can act as a reproductive unit, a housekeeper, and a nurse to his parents. In one study, the percentage of women who reported “housework” as their primary occupation rose from 16.7% while located in Vietnam to 52.4% after being relocated to Taiwan. As can be seen in a woman’s primary motivation for marriage (“To help the family”), the Vietnamese have strong familial ties and practice high subservience to a patriarchal structure. This trait is highly prized by some Taiwanese men who feel that Taiwanese women are beginning to wrest away from the constraints of a patriarchal society...
Here is a mass wedding, of Vietnamese brides in Taiwan:
From Time Magazine:
....As less desirable men find themselves snubbed by Taiwan's sophisticated women, one in four grooms in Taiwan now marries a bride from Southeast Asia or mainland China. "There's a strong urban bias in Taiwan," says Professor Hsia Hsiao-chuan of Shih Hsin University's Graduate Institute of Social Transformation Studies. "That means farmers and blue-collar workers have a hard time finding wives." But the rejected and dejected are treated like kings by professional matchmakers, who take them on trips to browse for brides in poorer parts of Asia....It's a wonder Vietnam has any women left. Lena Edlund, Elaine Liu, and Jin-Tan Liu wrote an interesting report on the subject: Beggar-Thy-Women: Domestic Response to Foreign Bride Competition, the Case of Taiwan. Here is the abstract:
In recent years, one in five marriages in Taiwan was to a foreign bride, mainly from China and Vietnam. In this paper we study the impact of foreign brides inflow on the domestic marriage market. We find that an inflow of foreign brides raises fertility and reduces the divorce risk of domestic couples. These results, we argue, are consistent with a model of marriage in which men employ women to produce children but women can shirk--the penalty of which is divorce. From the threat of foreign bride competition, women exert more effort, fertility increase and divorce risk declines. Our dataset consists of the universe of all marriages, divorces and the subsequent birth records between 1998-2006 in Taiwan. To address the endogeneity problem, we exploit a policy change in 2004 which restricts the entry of Chinese brides. We find that every 10 percentage points increase in foreign bride share increases local women's probability of having a child by 9.9 percentage points and decrease local women's probability of divorce by 0.79 percentage points.Maybe what we need in the USA is a little more foreign competition, to get our women in line. Without competition from Japan, American-made cars would probably be of a lot worse quality and a lot more expensive than they already are, as our auto-makers very much took us for granted for a very long time. Now, we probably drive more imported than domestically-manufactured cars. Maybe we should follow Taiwan's lead and import more women. When faced with a bit of competition, divorce rates for domestic couples might fall, and fecundity rates might increase.
From the Voice of America:
Comments on Taiwanese Marriage Trend Spark OutrageMeanwhile, China's one-child policy, cultural preference for a son (to continue a family's male lineage), and the availability of sex-selective abortion, have led to a serious surplus of bachelors. This, of course, has led to an elevation in the status of surviving Chinese women, and basic economic reasoning suggests that the Chinese women (and their parents) have the upper hand, and can afford to be really picky in the selection of a mate.
A legislator’s comments in Taiwan have touched off a public furor over one of the island’s stickiest social issues. Increasingly, Taiwanese men are choosing wives from overseas, and some say that is leaving growing numbers of local women without husbands.
Opposition legislator Chang Show-foong, a former writer, sparked the controversy by complaining that more and more local men are taking wives from Taiwan's poorer neighbors. Statistics show about 427,000 Taiwanese men have married foreign wives, mainly from China and Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, up to one-third of Taiwanese women over the age of 30 are unmarried, according to some estimates.
Chang said during a debate on policies for new immigrants that men often prefer the women from overseas. She said the trend of seeking wives from outside Taiwan has caused "tremendous losses to the nation" and suggested that the government offer a subsidy to the island’s unmarried women.
Chang is telling a parliamentary meeting that whenever a foreign bride comes in, a Taiwanese woman is being passed over. There are only so many men on the island, she argues, so Taiwan is left with many women who may never marry...
...Taiwan's increasingly well-educated women are often entering professional careers and earning large salaries that make them want to be accepted as equals by men.
Arrigo says that is unacceptable to some tradition-minded men, many of whom are encouraged in their views by conservative mothers. So they are turning instead to poorer, less educated women from Southeast Asia.
Many of the men who look abroad for wives are from the lower economic classes themselves, making them less appealing to upwardly-mobile Taiwanese women....
Zhang Peijuan, 58, scans the thousands of young men and women gathered in Shanghai Expo Park, looking for an eligible bachelor. “He should have a college degree, be about 1.75 meters tall, and property is a must,” says the retired researcher, who is seeking a husband for her daughter and carries three photos of the 28-year-old in her handbag. “When I see someone I think my daughter may like, I approach him for his contact.”...Chinese men know very well that they have the lower hand, and aren't especially pleased with the situation. Here is an article that appeared in Asia Times in 2010:
HONG KONG - Thousands of illegal Vietnamese workers are flooding into China's Pearl River Delta region, the country's manufacturing hub. At the same time, an increasing number of hard-up Chinese men are looking to Vietnam in search of the ideal wife.
Both stories speak volumes about changes in China's economic and social landscape. Double-digit economic growth has returned to the nation as the world climbs out of a prolonged recession, and the social stability so fretted over by the Communist Party leadership remains largely intact. But, although its economic juggernaut continues to roll, China is not the same country that it was only a few years ago.
Illegal Vietnamese migrants are taking low-paying factory jobs that Chinese workers no longer want, and Chinese men - at least many of those who like to sound off on web blogs and in Internet chat rooms - are fed up with the soulless avarice of Chinese women and employing matchmakers to find them more "obedient" Vietnamese wives. Indeed, their predilection for brides from Vietnam has ignited a web war of words over the merits of Chinese women versus their Vietnamese counterparts.
For male netizens who have taken the plunge into a foreign marriage, the verdict is in: Vietnamese women are the best. Their testimonies abound.
A happy newlywed from the eastern city of Nanjing writes of his Vietnamese bride: "[She is] not greedy, not lazy, not too free, not arrogant, not money-worshipping. [She is] pretty, hard-working, kind-hearted, and the key is obedient."
In other words, his Vietnamese dream girl is everything that he perceives Chinese women are not.
Another Nanjing man, 42-year-old Dai Wensheng, was so impressed by the wife he acquired during a visit to Vietnam last September that he has begun a blog organizing tours for Chinese bachelors who hope to achieve similar conjugal perfection.
Dai, the owner of a dance school who had previously been married to a Chinese woman, writes: "My ex-wife wanted LV [Louis Vuitton] bags and a new car from me while my Vietnamese wife takes care of the laundry, cooking and cleaning - and even peels the shells off shrimp for me. For the first time, I feel loved and spoiled."
Apparently, both Dai's sentiments and tours are catching on. Vietnamese matchmaking agencies are now looking increasingly to China.
A representative of Wtovisa Vietnam Marriage Agency, located in Hanoi, recently told a South China Morning Post reporter that the agency is considering devoting 70% of its staff to its booming China market
"In the past," Xie Junping said, "Taiwan and South Korea were the favorite destinations for Vietnamese women who wanted to marry foreigners. But we have seen a change since 2008, and more and more men from the mainland are seeking wives in Vietnam."
Cross-border marriages between Chinese and Vietnamese go back thousands of years, and the selling of "mail-order" Vietnamese brides to Chinese men has been taking place for the past 20 years or so. But this latest trend marks the first time Chinese suitors have made their way to Vietnam to woo their brides and hold a proper wedding.
On his blog, Dai tells his followers that his romantic 15-day excursion to Vietnam put him out only 35,000 yuan (US$5,123), including the cost of the wedding and the 80-table banquet that followed. "Brothers," he proselytizes, "drop the greedy, lazy and arrogant Chinese women who ask for property worth millions. Come to Vietnam for perfect wives."
What Dai fails to mention, however, is that many of his love-starved brethren have no choice but to look abroad for a mate. Thanks to China's one-child policy, adopted in 1979, there simply are not enough Chinese women - greedy or not - to go around. Because of the traditional preference for male children in Chinese families, by 2020 China will be home to 24 million bachelors who have no prospect of finding a wife in their own country - a massive lonely hearts club with ominous social implications. Foreign brides are their only hope - and also, even if not by design, good social policy...
Although the South Korean government places no limits on the number of children a family may have, the preference for boys has resulted in the killing of many more female than male fetuses, which has similarly led to a shortage of women.
From The Economist:
In the mid-1990s posters plastered on the subway in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, exhorted local girls to marry farmers. Young women had left their villages in droves since the 1960s for a better life in the booming city. Sons, however, stayed behind to tend family farms and fisheries.
The campaign was futile. Last year over a fifth of South Korean farmers and fishermen who tied the knot did so with a foreigner....Not long ago placards in the provinces sang the praises of Vietnamese wives “who never run away”. Now, on the Seoul subway, banners encourage acceptance of multicultural families.
A movie that looks at this phenomenon is Hanoi Bride.
They are expected to exceed 1.5m by 2020, in a population of 50m. That is remarkable for a country that has long prided itself on its ethnic uniformity. But a preference for sons has led to a serious imbalance of the sexes. In 2010 half of all middle-aged men in South Korea were single, a fivefold increase since 1995. The birth rate has fallen to 1.3 children per woman of childbearing age, down from six in 1960. It is one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Without immigration, the country’s labour force will shrink drastically...
...The government is now tightening up the marriage rules. Last month two new requirements came into force: a foreign bride must speak Korean, and a Korean groom must support her financially. Koreans are now limited to a single marriage-visa request every five years.
Critics say making marriage more difficult will only serve to speed up the greying of the workforce. The pool of eligible women will shrink, says Lee In-su, a marriage broker in Daegu in the south-east. Most foreign brides come from rural areas lacking language schools. Meanwhile, competition for brides from China, where men also outnumber women, is fierce.
In fact, the number of Korean men taking foreign brides is dropping, from 31,000 a year in 2005 to 18,000 last year. And nine-tenths of matches are now urban, says Mr Lee. Vietnamese girls no longer want to languish in the Korean countryside, says Kim Young-shin of the Korea-Vietnam Cultural Centre in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. They like watching Korean dramas and listening to K-pop—urban pursuits.
As for Korean clients, says Lee Chang-min, a broker in Seoul, they are increasingly better educated and better-off; some are among the country’s top earners. Many are simply on lower rungs of the eligibility ladder in a culture captivated by credentials, whether in looks, age or family connections. Others, Mr Lee says, are wary of the stereotype of the doenjangnyeo (a disparaging term for a class of Korean women seen as latte-loving gold-diggers). They prefer a wife who can assume a more traditional role than one many Korean women are nowadays willing to play. These men, the brokers lament, are now more likely to be introduced to their foreign wives through friends than through brokers. Perhaps a modest win for melting-pot Korea after all.
According to a BBC News report, this industry could be petering out in the next 10-15 years in Vietnam.
Sex ratios at birth are becoming increasingly imbalanced in Vietnam, with far more boys being born than girls, the UN Population Fund says. For every 100 females, 110.6 males were born - compared to a norm of 105. The situation was particularly worrying because of the rapid increase in the proportion of boys being born in the last five years, it said.
The UNFPA warned that the imbalance could lead to a number of social problems in the coming years. In May 2009, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan warned that the gender imbalance in Vietnam could lead to about 3 million men having difficulty in finding wives by 2030.
Bruce Campbell, the UNFPA's representative in Vietnam, said that other Asian countries with gender imbalances had developed these over much longer periods. "Over 30 years China reached the ratio of 130 (males per 100 females) and Korea 116, and these are declining," he said. "Vietnam went from quite a normal level of 105 to 110.6 in the last 5 years."
Vietnam banned foetal sex selection in 2003 in an effort to tackle this problem, but the practice is still going on. "Three factors that contribute to the increase of an imbalanced ratio at birth are firstly son-preference, a very fundamental aspect of culture and society in many countries, secondly the pressure of fertility to have a smaller family size, especially in a number of Asian countries, and thirdly the access to legal and affordable technology for son-selection," Mr Campbell explained. "And in Vietnam it's the combination of all three factors."
Dr Tran Van Chien, vice-head of Vietnam General Office for Population and Family Planning (Ministry of Health), says that the biggest difficulty Vietnam was facing in tackling the problem was the 1,000-year-old tradition that favours men over women, where men carry on the family line and care for elderly parents. He says changing this will take years.
However, it does seem that marrying a daughter abroad may be an excellent means for many Vietnamese families to lift themselves out of poverty. From NBC NEWS:
Vietnamese Women Wed Foreigners to Aid Family: Many Decide that a Foreign Husband is the Best Way out of Poverty
Nearly 70 young Vietnamese women swept past in groups of five, twirling and posing like fashion models, all competing for the hand of a Taiwanese man who had paid a matchmaking service about $6,000 for the privilege of marrying one of them.
porting jeans and a black T-shirt, 20-year-old Le Thi Ngoc Quyen paraded in front of the stranger, hoping he would select her.
"I felt very nervous," she recalled recently as she described the scene. "But he chose me, and I agreed to marry him right away."
Like many women from the Mekong Delta island of Tan Loc, Quyen had concluded that finding a foreign husband was her best route out of poverty. Six years later, she has a beautiful daughter and no regrets.
From the delta in Vietnam's south to small rural towns in the north, a growing number of young Vietnamese women are marrying foreigners, mostly from Taiwan and South Korea. They seek material comfort and, most important, a way to save their parents from destitution in old age, which many Vietnamese consider their greatest duty.
...Quyen has not gotten rich — her husband earns a modest living as a construction worker — but the couple have paid off her father's debts.
Young women have become Tan Loc's most lucrative export. Roughly 1,500 village women from the island of 33,000 people have married foreigners in the past decade, leading some to call it Taiwan Island.
Women in Tan Loc and other delta towns began marrying foreigners in the 1990s, when Vietnam opened up economically and many Taiwanese and South Korean firms set up operations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's southern business hub. Poverty and the close proximity of foreign businessmen seem to be major reasons for the trend.
...With money from foreign sons-in-law, many residents in Tan Loc have replaced their thatch-roof shacks with brick homes. They have also opened small restaurants and shops, creating jobs in a place where people have traditionally earned pennies a day picking rice and other crops in the blistering sun. The luckier families received enough to build ponds for fish farming.
Western Union has opened a branch to handle the money sent by newlyweds.
"At least 20 percent of the families on the island have been lifted out of poverty," said Phan An, a university professor who has done extensive research in Tan Loc. "There has been a significant economic impact."
...most young women in Tan Loc seem eager to marry a foreigner. Le Thanh Lang recently went to the town hall to get papers confirming she is single and eligible to marry. "Any country will do, I'll take anyone who will accept me," she said, waving the papers. "I need to send money to my parents."
Besides the marriage broker's fee, the groom gives about $300 to his bride's family, Lang said. After that, if all goes well, her husband may send up to several thousand dollars a year to her family — depending on what he can afford.
Husbands send money to brides' families. Many Tan Loc families with married daughters abroad have big homes with color TVs, new furniture and karaoke machines. Their neighbors live in huts.
Tran Thi Sach's concrete home, with four large rooms and shiny green tile floors, is a mansion by island standards.
"Since my daughters got married, I've retired," said Sach, 59, who used to toil in the rice fields with her husband. "We lived in a shack," she said. "We had to work no matter how hot it was, no matter how much it rained, from 5 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. Sometimes we could only afford rice porridge."
When her daughter Tho first said she planned to go to a marriage broker, Sach objected. What if her in-laws abused her? Where would she turn for help?
Tho married six years ago, and her younger sister Loi two years later.
"Their husbands are gentle, handsome and hardworking," Sach said. "They are really fine men."
Next door, Nguyen Thi Chin lives in a two-room shack with the roof so leaky that when it rains she must move from spot to spot to avoid getting wet. Each of her seven children married a Vietnamese, all of them poor. At 70, she is still working, pulling mussels from the muck in the Mekong River.
"I could never have a house like that," Chin said, glancing next door. "It's my destiny to be poor. If I had another daughter, I'd ask her to marry a foreigner."If more Vietnamese families apprehend the potential value to accrue from marrying a daughter overseas, then fewer girl fetuses might be aborted. As Danièle Bélanger points out:
...More than 100,000 Vietnamese women have married Taiwanese men over the last 10 years and the numbers are rising, said Gow Wei Chiou of the Taiwan representative office in Hanoi. In the same period, roughly 28,000 Korean men married Vietnamese, according to the Vietnam Women's Union...
...changes in the status of daughters and sons and a significant transformation of the marriage market. Emigrant daughters experienced enhanced status and power at home, mostly through remittances, to the extent that villagers expressed an increased preference for having girls rather than boys. Young women’s emigration has created a skewed marriage market, which gives village women and their families more bargaining power in marriage transactions. Getting married is difficult for many single men in the village due to the perceived greater value of foreign men, higher bride-prices and a shortage of potential brides. Overall, villagers view marriage migration as contributing to significant social transformations with respect to gender and power relations in households and in the marriage market.Still, as one might well imagine, not everyone perceives the Vietnamese bride trade as a mutually-satisfactory win-win business arrangement. An American Feminist had the following comments:
If your choice is near-enslavement to a man in poverty or near-enslavement to a man in luxury, most people would choose the latter....
That's not romance. It's a business transaction. Again, I don't blame these women for their choice - given their options, it's logical - but to call it 'romantic' is beyond euphemistic. It's not about romance, it's not about partnership, it's not about companionship; it's about finding an aesthetically pleasing servant who has no other decent options....And, the Vietnam Human Rights Network (headquartered in California) started an online petition:
Some business transactions are about forming a partnership; some are about purchasing resources. Buying a wife based on 'obedience, aesthetics, and hard work' is about the latter, and, as someone else already mentioned, it's only about 'companionship' to the extent that owning a dog is about companionship...
For the kind attention of Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Lee Hsien Loong:
We wish to bring to your attention that a Singapore company is trafficking in young Vietnamese women. Life Partner Matchmaker Pte Ltd advertises certified Vietnamese virgin brides for sale in marriage to Asian men. Its current internet website (www.lifepartnermatchmaker.com) displays a slide show of new arrivals from Vietnam, and mentions that the company also provides online dating for activities, friendship, love, romance and marriage. In short, the services provided are inhuman and denigrate all women everywhere.
We strongly protest this shameful form of modern-day slavery, and respectfully ask Singapore to put an immediate stop to the abuse and exploitation of these Vietnamese victims. This organization, which joined with Eva Management in 1996, is involved in buying and selling innocent Vietnamese girls and should be prosecuted to the full extent of Singapore law.
We have always viewed Singapore as a highly moral country that respects the dignity of all people around the world, especially women. Life Partner Matchmaker Pte Ltd and other, similar companies are corrupting this image. Singaporean products have always been on our shopping lists. I fear that this might change if the government of Singapore continues to be indifferent toward enterprises that engage in human trafficking.
We ask your government to respond to this inhuman practice by investigating and prosecuting these companies and banning future such companies from operation.
Note that they're only concerned with one company, Life Partner Matchmaker Pte, in Singapore. I have the impression that when it was just Taiwanese, South Korean, and Chinese gentlemen who were going to Vietnam in search of brides, then everything was fine--no problem. After Singaporeans got involved, and reports (such as the one above about Mr Cupid International Matchmakers) started appearing in the English-language press, then the (highly predictable) response in the Anglophone world was "This is shocking! These women are being objectified, and terribly expoited! And, We don't want our men to be getting any ideas!" It thus became incumbent upon the various powers to take action and do something. Both Mr Cupid International Matchmakers and Life Partner Matchmaker seem to be out of business (at least their websites are down).
In April, 2011, Thanhien News reported on a bride broker crackdown in Vietnam:
Last week, Qi Shui Hua, 38, walked into an upscale café in District 6 expecting to review a parade of potential young brides. He would take one home, he thought, for a hefty fee.Poor Mr. Hua. In March, 2012, Thanhien News reported:
Instead, Hua had to fly back to China alone.
On April 21, city police raided the café and arrested Ha My Nga and Phu Duc Hang, the two women broking a marriage for Hua.
The arrest signified the latest move in a nationwide crackdown on illegal marriage broker scams.
A week earlier, Can Tho City police arrested three people suspected of having paid a justice department official a total of VND1.7 billion (US$81,281) in bribes to help expedite paperwork for local women looking to marry foreigners.
The suspects include a local ward official in charge of birth, marriage and death records, a 49-year-old Korean-language instructor, and a 32-year-old man. The trio was accused of making illicit payments to Phan Thanh Dung, deputy head of the Judicial Administrative Section under the city's Justice Department last November. Dung is also in custody and remains under investigation for his alleged role in the scheme...
Police in Ho Chi Minh City said Sunday they have busted an illegal marriage brokerage that was lining up brides for South Korean men.And, from the Malaysia Chronicle:
They said they caught two Korean men, Choe Dong-myong, 43, and Chol Chan-ha, 61, red-handed last Tuesday selecting wives from several Vietnamese women at a hotel in District 5. Choe reportedly paid Do Viet Bang, 35, US$3,500 for their accommodation and wedding expenses. Each selected woman's family were to be paid VND4 million ($192), the police said. Tran Due Xuong, 46, who brought the women, was also to be paid a similar amount. Bang, who ran the service with his wife, 34-year-old Tran Thi Bich Tuyen, confessed to police that he had earlier set up six such marriages...
...In the early days, matches were made mainly by taking the men to Vietnam for "viewings", he says. Up to eight men in each group would travel to villages in Vietnam, where the women would line up, dressed to charm. There, the men would select their brides and even have a wedding reception. Vows would be exchanged for $12,888 package that included air tickets, a health check-up for the bride, the matchmaker's overheads and payment to middlemen.It seems rather extreme. "Human trafficking?" An eight-year jail term, for taking two men on a matchmaking trip? Well, the Feminists would be jumping for joy.
It was on a similar trip back in 1999 that Mr Toh met his wife. They were married four years later and have a nine-year-old daughter. His wife, Madam Rachel Nguyen, 30, runs a nail salon at Pearl's Centre in Chinatown.
Says Mr Toh: "As long as there is commitment and patience in a marriage, it is possible to find your happily-ever-after."
But greater enforcement of immigration laws in Vietnam have made such trips risky. Says Mr Toh: "The Vietnamese authorities consider these 'viewings' as human trafficking and arrest those who conduct them." His Vietnamese brother-in-law was nabbed in 2009 and convicted for taking two men on a matchmaking trip to a village near Ho Chi Minh City. He is currently serving an eight-year jail term...
From the Vietnam Language Centre in Singapore:
...A spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore said it has always been illegal to broker marriages between Vietnamese women and foreign men because it insults the women’s dignity and affects their rights, among other reasons. Brokers can be fined or jailed, he said, but there is no penalty for the clients.Now, instead of bringing the men to Vietnam to choose a bride, the prospective brides are typically brought to Singapore on tourist visas, where they sit in a shop in a mall, waiting for a man to marry them.
Among those nabbed was Singapore matchmaker Toh’s Vietnamese brother-in-law, who started a business matching Vietnamese women with Malaysian men. In 2009, he was jailed for eight years. One of Mr Toh’s Vietnamese middlemen was sentenced to 12 years’ jail for human trafficking.
Still, some Singapore matchmakers continue to take men to Vietnam, though there is no longer a parade of hundreds of prospective brides. The women now turn up in twos and threes to keep a low profile, said Mr Ong.
He charges $10,000 for a three-day tour if the man succeeds in finding a wife. If there is no match, the man pays $888...
...As you walk along the corridors at Katong Shopping Centre, you might encounter an unusual shop nestled among the maid agencies. The women inside it are well-dressed. They wear lipstick and have powdered faces. Outside his shop is a signboard with the words "bride" in Chinese characters.
Despite that, customers still are mistaken. "People see ladies sitting in my office all day and immediately assume they are maids. Can't they see that my ladies are dressed so nicely, with make-up and their hair done up? These women are looking for husbands, not employers," says Mr Francis Toh, 58, the Singaporean owner of First Overseas International Matchmaker.
There are at least 17 such marriage agencies in Singapore, going by a check of the Yellow Pages. Some specialise in matching professionals and executives. Others, like Mr Toh's, pair local men with foreign brides, mainly from Vietnam and China.Very good points. A couple of online polls that asked men from what type of woman they would run away fastest, and that similarly asked women from type of man they would run away fastest, revealed the following:
Mr Toh's clients are men who typically have little luck with local women. They are usually blue-collar workers in their 30s to 50s with little education. Their preferred mate? Young, submissive and foreign.
The women, in turn, are usually farmers' daughters, aged 18 to 25. They come from the poor, rural areas in southern Vietnam, such as Tay Ninh and Binh Thuan, and regard Singapore men as a way out of poverty....
...Now, Mr Toh flies the girls here on social visit passes, valid for two to four weeks. They stay with his family in a four-room flat in the Chai Chee area. In the day, the girls meet prospective husbands. Some choose to sit in his office - the size of a two-room flat - hoping the man of their dreams will stride in. If a man wants to marry them, he pays the agency $6,800 in cash or cheque.
Easy money? Nope. For one thing, the agency loses money if the girl can't find a match. Says Mr Toh: "We cover their living expenses and airfare, which comes up to $700 for each girl. We also spend $1,500 a month on newspaper advertisements for them."
Two in five are denied entry into Singapore, he says. He believes this is because they are unable to give satisfactory answers to immigration officers regarding their accommodation in Singapore, or because of their limited command of English and Chinese.
"It's sad when we have to lose business like this," he says.
1. a lot of gents said that they would run away from either a battle-ax or a Feminist.
2. a lot of the ladies indicated that they didn't want a "mama's boy", a man with traditional values, nor a man who couldn't keep up with the housework and meal preparation.
Moreover, men who are shy, non-assertive or socially awkward are at quite a disadvantage in North America, where women want men who to be assertive and sexually aggressive. And, Feminists have quite a long list of demands of men with whom they are in romantic relationships. Which seems to mean that Feminists want men to be quite assertive about supporting Feminist points of view.
Perhaps a lot of the gents who are out of luck in North America, or who just can't find the kind of woman they want, might stand a much better chance at a mall in Singapore. Particularly if they are introverted, don't have time for meeting women in their own city or jurisdiction, and don't particularly want to get involved with a Feminist. If Vietnamese women are only hoping for a husband who will be kind to them and not beat them--well, that's certainly not too much to ask. If our women want a man who is domineering and assertive--a Vietnamese peasant might fulfill the bill. However, the Asian continent is full of mama's boys with traditional values. You're going to have to kowtow to your mother-in-law.
I searched the internet high and low, and couldn't find a single example of a Western gentleman making use of a matchmaking service to acquire a Vietnamese wife. Thailand and the Philippines seem to be the most popular destinations for Westerners in Southeast Asia. I have to admit, though, that news of an 8-year prison sentence for international matchmaking may be a bit off-putting. International marriage agencies operate freely in Thailand, and perhaps with some restrictions in the Philippines.
According to Alphonso Lingis:
...The T'ai people are profoundly matriarchal, and rural Thailand, Laos, and parts of Myanmar are to this day. Patriarchal culture entered Siam late, through the royal family, which, though to this day Buddhist, in the late Sukhothai period--as Angkor long before it--imported brahmanical priests and with them Vedic patriarchal culture. Under King Chulalongkorn's program of modernization, large numbers of Chinese coolies were imported to build the land transportation system across this river kingdom; they were to stay and settle into the traditional commercial activities of Chinese everywhere in the cities of South Asia; today a third of Bangkok is Chinese. They are the second entry of patriarchal culture into Siam...Traditional Thai culture (particularly in the country's NorthEast, or Issan region, which provides the bulk of the entertainers in the tourist areas, and most of the wives for Western gentlemen) is more matriarchal than patriarchal, with extremely strong ties between mother and daughter. Customarily, a man who marries an Issan girl pays her parents a dowry, and may move into her parents' house. But, neither he nor her father seem to count for a whole heck of a lot. The eldest daughter has the bulk of the responsibility of taking care of her mother. According to a blogger named Austin:
...Thai families are also incredibly matriarchal. We were told that in most cases, the female of the family is both the leader of the family and the breadwinner. Men have a significantly lower expected lifespan than women and many men have drinking problems. We’ve seen this in action in front of our hotel. They are doing construction and building a new 7/11. A vast majority of the construction workers are all female. Our program director said that this is very normal and most of the employees are all likely related to the oldest female there. Family loyalty really takes precedence over all in Thai society. If you are a kid born into a family that has a family business, the rest of your life has been decided from the day you were born. You will work in that business and support your family for the rest of your life...The Philippines is also a matriarchal society, in spite of considerable Spanish and American influences.
In other Asian countries, like Korea, the man is number one, is expected to take care of his parents, and he will eventually inherit the family business and property. His wife moves into the house and kowtows to his parents. Vietnamese culture is similarly patriarchal:
...For centuries in Vietnam, traditional family values were accomplished by the fulfillment of traditional roles: the role of man and woman as parents. Vietnamese valued their traditional ideal of male superiority. Since the highest status in Vietnamese families is given to the man (father), he had absolute authority in the household. His position as provider for the family was unchallenged. Because he provided the main source of income for the household, he was never expected to work in the kitchen or to cook. After work he returned home and relaxed. As a head of household he had the final decision in all matters, although he might consult his wife or children...Having a boy in family was a "must" because the eldest son would assume the duties of his father when he died. A family which had no son to continue the process was superstitiously thought to have disappeared forever.Which may tend to explain why men of Korean and Chinese culture prefer Vietnamese wives--the patriarchal upbringing of Vietnamese women. There are quite a lot of single, marriage-minded, English-speaking Filipina maidens already living in Singapore.
In a patriarchal society, Vietnamese woman had limited rights and took a secondary place in family. Women were brought up according to a strict discipline, and have been traditionally less educated than men. They usually do not enter the job market outside the home...Daughter is not considered necessary in heritage. According to Lam, Vietnamese traditional viewpoint was "If you have a son, you can say you have a descendent. But you cannot say so even if you have ten daughters".
After marriage, woman became housewife and mother. She was expected to be dependent upon her husband, budgeted his income for the household, took care of children and even grandchildren, performed all household tasks. According to Muzny, divorce was legal but not common. A wife can be unhappy in her marriage; but rather than accepts divorce, the family encouraged her to sacrifice and to endure the difficulties of the marriage for the sake of her children....
...Boys and girls are not free to do what they want. Girls are under strict supervision. Western style courtship and romance were seen as inappropriate for unmarried children. Virginity is cherished. Pregnancy out of wedlock is uncommon, and it is a grave disgrace to the family. For their children's marriage, parents generally made decision because they could judge better...
And, Thailand is just a short distance away from Singapore. Here are the words of a Thai lady married to a Singaporean gentleman:
Singapore men look for women who are lower than them. Singapore women look for men who are higher than them. My husband says that the standard and expectation of Singaporean girl is higher and higher and he cannot make it...That’s why most of the Singaporean men looked for foreigners...So, why are Singaporean men going to the trouble and expense of acquiring Vietnamese brides, when Thailand is at their doorstep, and so many available Filipinas are already in the country? Asian men (especially of Chinese and Korean ethnicity) are generally very smart, and quite thrifty. Perhaps they're on to something, and Western men might wish at least to consider following their well-worn path. Maybe the men of Singapore perceive women raised in Vietnam's patriarchal culture as being just that much better, to warrant the extra costs, and to justify dealing with the language barrier.
Singaporean ladies’ standards are different from us...After they marry, they always think they have the right to choose their own lives. They are not like foreign ladies, dependent on their husbands, we just do what our husbands wants, whatever they want to eat, we will cook. Singaporean ladies won’t do this...We always submit.
It may be that Western men have a higher interest in non-marital jiggery-pokery--something that is more readily available in Thailand and the Philippines than in Vietnam. Also, Western men tend not to value a woman's virginity. A lot of men in the West don't understand Asian cultures the way that Singaporean men do. For us, a woman who won't act like this
would be worth the $10,000 finder's fee. If she can cook, clean, take good care of a man's favorite appendage, and is a virgin to boot, then so much the better. But, what do Vietnamese chicks think of Western men?
Well, Number One isn't bad at all.
From an astute forum participant:
Marriage has the same problems of small business, which also have a mostly unfavorable outcome. At least in business a Plan is written, laying out all of the costs before investing, and there is a clear view of job descriptions.
In business if you do not love what you are doing, find something you do love, because you are giving your life to it...
...I think the Vietnamese girls and their mail order husbands both have a clear idea of what they want, what they are investing their lives in, and take a serious view of the long term.
In the west, romance, flirting, dating, have become an industry of their own. While it does sell books and products, it is only one step toward a goal that often seems to be left out.
Serial bride to be and potential Mister Right, both play the role like a Business Plan, but never make the step to Incorporate...
...Those with a strong plan, ample funding, and a vision of the future, are more likely to last. Here the Asians are superior, they have a shared vision.
We call it the Chinese Business Plan, it covers the next 500 years. New startups write in their children and grandchildren as having a place in the family business. It is their retirement and care in old age, to have built something that will support generations and make them secure in old age.
It is the one business model that has survived famines, wars, plague, and all of the survivors know it is the only way.
The East sees us as children who have wealth, and do not know how to use it or keep it... ...Men have a broad interaction over time with the three faces of the goddess, as mother, wife, daughter.
I think we have less of an "all women are" than women have "all men are."
Also the rich and material west misses some of what is obvious in poverty, children survive because of their mothers, and the attachment runs deeper. Girls do want to care for their mother, also have their own life, and daughter.
These are front and center in the Vietnamese plan.
Men work hard, and die early, leaving a protected wife behind to care for the adult children, and they for her. She is not a burden, she is the whole of their family history and tradition.
A Son would not consider marrying anyone who would not value his parents.
Girls care for younger siblings, babysitting is universal. They also care for parents, daughter of the house, and expect to continue their role when they take on babysitting some older boy for his mother, who she will live with full time, as the boy is off working most of the time.
As his mothers best friend, she has a status not covered by the word wife in the west. The women live there and run the house, the men visit. He has to support his mother, the house, and the wife helps. She will also mother his children, and that is a good deal all around.
When he comes in from plowing the field, it is like a hospital where he is cleaned, fed, bathed, rested, like a valued water buffalo.
Most are very happy to have a wife, cared for parent, clean house, with waiting food and care.
The dainty little Vietnamese girl will surprise him when it is time to plant rice. They are a clean people, modest, and when she pulls her skirt between her legs, tucks it in her belt, picks up a basket of seedlings, and joins him in the deep mud, bent over and planting seedlings with her beautiful hands, working side by side through the hot day, his partner in farming, life, family, that put her pride in being clean and beautiful aside to stand in the mud and sweat with her husband, his partner in life.
She will work like an ox, then late in the day tell him she must go check on his mother, and when he comes home she is clean, cleans him, and gives him a place to rest.
Who could not love her, feel life's bonds, and hear his mother say, "that is the best thing you ever did, to marry that girl."
Praise and support, support a life in poverty, hard work, and life. Family, neighbors, are praised often, and aid one another, as that is their choice.
Give the same girl an air-conditioned apartment in Taiwan, a credit card, she will stay home, take care of your mother, and wear the clothes she has, because they are not worn out. She will feel spoiled by not only buying bagged rice, but having it delivered. She would resist her husband buying her clothes, but agree if his mother says so. She would rather go naked than waste money.
Take her out to a nice dinner, do not let her see the check, she might beat up the waiter for trying to steal your money. "Eight Yuan for rice! I can buy a kilo for seven!"
They are the most beautiful and graceful women on earth, and more than half Pit Bull when it comes to defending home, family, children.