Married to mistreatment

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Thanh Nien helps rescue a Vietnamese victim of domestic abuse in Taiwan

A wedding photo of 29-year-old Phan Thi Kim Thanh and her Taiwanese husband Chung Yung Hua. Thanh was rescued from her husband's house in
Changhua County on December 13, where she was allegedly being battered and kept under home arrest by her husband.

A Vietnamese woman was rescued on Tuesday (December 6) after allegedly suffering beatings and home imprisonment for nearly two years at the hands of her Taiwanese husband in Taiwan's Changhua County.

The rescue was conducted by the county's Huatan Township police and the Taiwan Domestic Violence Prevention Center, who were informed of the case by Thanh Nien.

The woman, 29-year-old Phan Thi Kim Thanh of Can Tho City, has been taken to a shelter for medical attention. Further details about her future will be kept confidential for her safety.

Thanh Nien learned of her case on December 8 when her mother, Nguyen Kim The of Can Tho's Thoi Lai District, reported her daughter's predicament to the newspaper.

The said Thanh married Chung Yung Hua of Taiwan in April 2009. It was a brokered wedding. The wedding, held at a restaurant in HCMC, only had nine attendees: the couple, Thanh's parents and her five relatives. Hua paid The VND5 million (US$238).

Thanh migrated to Taiwan in February last year and her mother said she only called home twice"”both short conversations that alluded to details about her life abroad.

On December 3, a woman claiming to be Thanh's friend in Taiwan, called The to say that over the past years Thanh was beaten frequently and had been imprisoned within her home by her husband. The woman said Thanh had asked her to call home for help.

The then had an interpreter call Hua, but her Taiwanese son-in-law only told her not to bother his family before hanging up.

Thanh is just one among thousands of Vietnamese women who have married Taiwanese husbands in hopes of a better life. Meanwhile, the gender imbalance favoring men has forced many Taiwanese and other East Asian men to seek wives abroad.

According to the Taiwanese National Immigration Agency, up to 43,875 Vietnamese women have married Taiwanese men as of February 2011. The most common destination for these women within Taiwan is Kaohsiung, home to 14,209 Vietnamese brides.

Thanh Nien conducted an investigation in Taiwan and found that many Vietnamese brides are far less happy than they expected to be before getting married, due to language barriers and other cultural difficulties. Often, the husband's family members think they are entitled to something in return after paying money to "buy" a wife.

Most of the husbands are manual laborers with low literacy who married Vietnamese women through marriage brokers. They often spend around $10,000 for the service, of which the Vietnamese brides only receive $100.

Many Taiwanese marry Vietnamese wives to care for the children from previous marriages and most do not allow their wives to come and go freely or to work, fearing they would meet other men and divorce them.

Dao Duyen Hai, a Vietnamese woman married to a Taiwanese man, said she is a member of a voluntary group to protect people like her; a survey conducted by the group revealed that most Vietnamese wives accept their mistreatment without complaining.

Le Thi Bich Vi, 33, a Kien Giang native, married a Taiwanese truck driver through a broker nine years ago, hoping for a better life.

However, she could not count how many times she has been battered by her husband and his relatives.

"Still, I don't know why I was beaten or what I did wrong," she said, adding that the worst beating occurred when she was six months pregnant, causing her to nearly lose the baby.

Hong-zen Wang, director of the Department of Sociology at Taiwan's National Sun Yat-sen University, said the migration of Vietnamese women abroad through marriage has the potential to increase transnational activities and remittances if both countries take relevant steps to prevent regrettable issues.

"Both sides really need to collaborate," he told Thanh Nien Weekly. "Women, who migrate abroad, whether for work or marriage, are emigrants in their own right and should be treated as such."

"In a study we did, we found that women send remittances and that local communities benefit from this migration, while it causes other tensions such as a shortage of women for young men who wish to marry. But communities adapt creatively to shifting demographics."

He also urged receiving countries to provide better information to the women and to educate husbands regarding Vietnamese history, social development, gender culture and family system to avoid the sad stories that often emerge from brokered international marriages.

"It requires both sides collaborating to work out a program that educates husbands not to view their wives as "˜something' bought, but to understand them from within the Vietnamese social context," he said.

Dang Thi Xuan Diem migrated to Taiwan 11 years ago and had three children with her husband, a farmer. She has had to work extremely hard to rear her family, as her husband does not earn much money.

Although not being seriously battered by her husband like other Vietnamese women, Diem still hopes she will one day return to her hometown in Vietnam's Dong Thap Province.

"Whenever Vietnam has policies which ensure a good life for farmers, many other Vietnamese women here and I will return home," she said.

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