Bridal diaspora

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A recent study has found that an increasing number of Vietnamese women are leaving the country to marry husbands in bride-starved Asian countries and territories.

These marriages do not always have a happy ending, researchers found.

"In Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, where it is difficult for some men to find a spouse, a growing number of wives are brought in from abroad," said a study by Daniele Belanger of the University of Western Ontario published on July 26.

"The foreign brides generally [come] from China and Vietnam, and if at first this kind of marriage was more common among the rural poor, it subsequently spread to the urban middle classes," wrote Belanger in the journal of France's National Institute for Demographic Studies.

According to statistics released by the South Korean Consulate General in HCMC, 8,000 Vietnamese women were granted Korean marriage visas in 2009 alone. According to the consulate, around 35,000 women in total have applied for similar visas.

A study published in 2005 stated that nearly 100,000 Vietnamese brides had moved to Taiwan to marry husbands. According to statistics provided by the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice, local women make up 35 percent of all foreign brides in the island territory.

Unhappy marriages

Conflicting expectations between Vietnamese brides and their Taiwanese spouses have lead to violence, according to the 2009 report authored by Wen-hui Anna Tang, Daniele Belanger and Hong-zen Wang about Taiwanese-Vietnamese marriages.

The emigrant brides were often expected by their new families to fulfill traditional gender roles. They were expected to stay at home, raise children, perform domestic work, and provide care to family members (i.e. the elderly, nephews and nieces).

The researchers found that many Vietnamese women came to Taiwan with hopes of working outside the home. These women wished to contribute to their new household's income in addition to generating remittances for their parents back home, the study found.

Last year, a Vietnamese woman named Lan divorced her Taiwanese husband after eight years of marriage, according to the study accounts. She claimed that he had abused her both psychologically and physically. Lan alleged that his abuse occurred with increasing frequency after she expressed a desire to apply for an identity card.

Lan was married by a bridal broker in Ho Chi Minh City at age 19. As a dutiful Vietnamese daughter, one of her priorities in life was to help her parents.

After Lan gave birth to a daughter in her first year of marriage, she did not want to have another child, but her husband asked her to give him a boy. Lan refused and decided to work at a nearby seafood restaurant as a waitress to make some money in light of her husband's unemployment.

But she found that her husband ultimately controlled the money she made.

For Vietnamese readers, the abuse and murder of domestic women married to foreign husbands has become a familiar story.

Growing trend

Despite all the bad press, many Vietnamese women continue to marry husbands abroad in the hope of improving life for themselves and their families.

"Having a daughter married abroad has become a popular trend, and international marriage has become more acceptable and even desirable among villagers in the community," said Tran Linh Giang in her Masters thesis at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

One woman from the Tan Loc Commune in Can Tho, who has not married a daughter off to a foreign husband, said that even well-off households are marrying off their daughters "because they feel the other households are getting better-off by receiving a lot of money from their daughters abroad.

"Sometimes I think these households look at marrying off a daughter as a get-rich-quick scheme. Meanwhile, I have to toil and slave but I am still poverty-stricken," she said.

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