Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Abuse of Mail-Order Brides Prompts Bill

From the Chicago Tribune:
Motivated by the murder of a mail-order bride, members of Congress are drafting a bill that would enable foreign women seeking American husbands to learn the criminal background of men courting them through matchmaking agencies.

The legislation, expected to be introduced this month in the House and Senate, represents the most serious effort yet to impose federal oversight over a loosely regulated, Internet-based industry.

The measure's prime sponsors are Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen, both Democrats from Washington state -- where 20-year-old Anastasia King, a mail-order bride from Kyrgyzstan, was killed in September 2000.

Her husband, Indle King Jr., was convicted last year of first-degree murder. He had divorced a previous foreign bride and was seeking a third before the killing.
Now first, I'd like to say, "it's about time!!!" King was far from the first mail-order bride who has been abused and even murdered.
Advocates for immigrant women's rights acknowledge that statistics are scarce on abuse of mail-order brides, but they're convinced the problem is growing.

"We called legal service providers that help battered immigrant women -- half of these organizations said they have women coming through their doors who were married through international marriage brokers," said Layli Miller-Muro, executive director the Tahirih Justice Center in Falls Church, Va.
As someone who has been working with abused refugee and immigrant women, I can say that my experience matches up with Miller-Muro's. To make matters worse, these men often either hide the wife's papers or never actually file them -- making it incredibly difficult for them to get out of the marriage without being deported. Fortunately, VAWA has reduced the number of years a woman has to be married before she can divorce without immediate deportation if she can prove abuse. But it's still not enough. It's only reduced it from 7 years to 3 years -- better, yes, but not enough.

So, I would like to applaud Cantwell and Larsen for finally stepping up and doing something about this problem.

However, it must be noted that this is nothing more than a band-aid measure. This will not stop the problems inherent in the mail-order bride system. On the most basic level, this will only stop men who have a record of being abusive (either having been convicted of abuse or having had a restraining order placed against them). This will not protect women from abusive men who have either never abused before, or have simply never been caught at it. For another thing, the problems with the mail-order bride system go beyond abuse and murder. The entire system is rife with strict gender role expectations, submission, and oppression. This bill is only a stop-gap on the road to eliminating this "industry" altogether -- something that desperately needs to be done.

Now, I know that many women voluntarily sign-up to be mail-order brides in order to obtain a "better life" and/or U.S. citizenship. However, rather than simply condoning one oppressive system to help relieve another oppressive system -- we should instead all be working to remove the original oppressive system. Whether that be making immigration easier or helping women in other countries be far less oppressed to begin with.

All that said, I have a few quibbles with the article, itself (or, at least with some of the things written about in the article).
Spivack contended that male clients, not the women, are the most likely to be victimized in mail-order marriages. Some women, she said, enter such marriages solely to gain U.S. citizenship, then falsely complain of physical abuse as a ploy to remain in America despite divorce.

"Some of these women are sharks," she said.
Ridiculous. I'm not going to say that this never happens. But to say that men are more victimized is beyond ridiculous. The injuries these women sustain speak for themselves.
"A guy is not going to grab a young woman in Russia to bring here just to beat up," he said. "He's got a lot of money tied up in it."
Bullshit. That may not have been his intention -- but it sure as hell won't prevent him from doing it. In fact, the opposite is true. Now he feels he "owns" her. If she doesn't do exactly what he wants, he feels even more of a "right" to beat the shit out of her.
Such a pitch is offered by the Chance for Love matchmaking service. "The Russian woman has not been exposed to the world of rampant feminism that asserts its rights in America," its Web site says. "She is the weaker gender and knows it."
Right, because Russia is such a backward country. They would never have learned of feminism. There are no Russian feminists. [rolleyes] What fucking bullshit. Try telling that to Marina Pisklakova, Olga Lipovskaya, Alexandra Kollontai, Galina Starovoitova, or any of the other hundreds of Russian feminists past and present. Gah!

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