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Old 11-07-2005, 12:34 PM   #1
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Another Form of Human Trafficking?

Battered mail-order brides seek rights

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- It took Natasha a day trip to Moscow to find the American husband she had dreamed of. It took the next six years to get out of the nightmare that followed.

A music teacher from central Russia, she was one of 200 Russian women who patiently lined up at a Moscow restaurant to meet 10 American men at a gathering hosted by a mail-order bride agency.

She spoke no English but immediately caught the eye of one of the men, 16 years her senior. He was handsome and said he wanted the same things she did: a loving family and children.

They went to museums and the theater with an interpreter, and he started the paperwork to bring her to the United States as his wife.

The fairy tale ended eight months later.

Natasha, who would only be identified using a pseudonym, had barely set foot in the United States when her new husband began to abuse her sexually, disappeared for weeks at a stretch, threatened anyone who tried to befriend her and forced her to sign a post-nuptial agreement.

Thrown out of their house after two years of abuse, Natasha was left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar country with minimal English skills and no legal documents to work.
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Old 11-07-2005, 01:01 PM   #2
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the mail order bride industry is recognized as a form of trafficking. i did some research on this when i was in law school, and there are tons of websites set up to "advertise" Russian women as potential wives to foreign men. most of the sites tried to give the impression that this is just another form of online dating, but there's clearly an imbalance of power between the women and their potential suitors. it's disturbing to think that any man with enough money can simply go and literally buy himself a wife, and basically do whatever he wants to her once he has her away from her family, her social support network, and everything she's ever known.



side rant: it's interesting that they chose the name Natasha as a pseudonym for this woman, as Natasha is a common slang term for prostitutes in Russia and eastern Europe. just an observation.
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Old 11-07-2005, 02:38 PM   #3
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There's been a number of Law & Order: SVU episodes dealing w/ this issue. Pretty sick, if you ask me.
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Old 11-07-2005, 04:42 PM   #4
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dandy, did you learn anything about how common these sorts of quasi-arranged, "mail-order" marriages are among Russians more generally? i.e., is there any sort of legitimate cultural precedent for this practice, or is it purely exploitative in origin? I'm curious because "marriage by mail" (or online) is not so uncommon among some other ethnic groups whose traditional arranged marriage procedures don't always work in far-flung diaspora situations, yet the worst abuse stories coming from such setups--and my sincere apologies if I'm stepping on any toes here--seem to be so overwhelmingly associated with Russians and a few other Eastern European ethnic groups.
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Old 11-07-2005, 04:59 PM   #5
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i've been holding my tongue, but i've seen documentaries on this subject, and they paint the practice in an almost flattering light. i'm quite sure there are bad people out there who are looking for a maid/sex slave, but many of the russian woman profiled are simply looking for a way out of russia. the American men looking for russian brides tended to be rather nerdy and socialy awkward, and they'd go to Russia and engage in sort of an accelerated dating game process, as opposed to simply ordering a bride with a credit card. i think there might be a difference between what i saw and what Dandy is referring to.

it also seemed to be a good deal for the women. they complained about high rates of alcoholism amongs Russian men, and the generally dismal economic outlook. they also mentioned that there are cultural prejudices held by many Russian men where they would not become 2nd fathers to a woman's children if they had a different father. not so with the American men. one woman intereviewed basically said that she used to be single and in Moscow with 2 children and had a revolving series of abusive boyfriends in her life, abusive to her children as well. now, she's married to a well-to-do american guy, she lives north of LA, he loves her kids like his own, they go to private school, and she's no longer in Russia.



while i'm well aware of the potential for exploitation in this business, if it works out for both parties, why not?

(don't kill me, just letting you know what i saw)
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Old 11-07-2005, 05:16 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
dandy, did you learn anything about how common these sorts of quasi-arranged, "mail-order" marriages are among Russians more generally? i.e., is there any sort of legitimate cultural precedent for this practice, or is it purely exploitative in origin? I'm curious because "marriage by mail" (or online) is not so uncommon among some other ethnic groups whose traditional arranged marriage procedures don't always work in far-flung diaspora situations, yet the worst abuse stories coming from such setups--and my sincere apologies if I'm stepping on any toes here--seem to be so overwhelmingly associated with Russians and a few other Eastern European ethnic groups.
It's definitely not common practice among Russians and Eastern Europeans as an ethnic practice. It is more, as Irvine said, a way for women to get out of Russia and American men to buy a bride. Most Russians or Eastern Europeans I've met who have moved here either brought a wife or girlfriend with them, have remained single or married Americans. They don't seek to arrange a marriage online or anything to get a native.

When it came up in my Russian class, my professor told the guys "just don't do it" but she wouldn't explain why. She told me a story of how a Russian guy approached her and tried to recruit her for his company. "You want American guy? Go to America?" She showed him her American passport--he fled! "Oh, sorry, sorry!"

I met a mail order bride once without realizing it. It was very sad. He was an older man, a total controlling jerk and she was this meek little mouse who would barely talk to us. He brought her in to have her hair cut and was ordering us and her around. In retrospect I realized what the situation was. He had a whole act going about his foreign wife and how helpless she was...sick and sad.
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Old 11-07-2005, 06:07 PM   #7
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It's the imbalance of power, like dandy said

I guess you can say at least these women aren't five years old ..if both parties are in honest agreement as to what will occur and the relationship isn't abusive, well maybe that's a different story, if you look at it in light of the fact that people meet each other in so many different ways and end up married these days. I think you could use that old "sanctity of marriage" argument too..

After all, they have things like that "Alaska men" dating/marriage thing, but of course Alaska isn't Russia, and the Alaskan men aren't marrying the women to escape anything, except maybe the cold
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:01 PM   #8
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen


After all, they have things like that "Alaska men" dating/marriage thing, but of course Alaska isn't Russia,
your right

not since we bought it from them
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:38 PM   #9
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yolland, i don't have much to add to AvsGirl's reply because i didn't look too far into mail order brides. i ended up doing a major research project on sex trafficking in south east asia instead, so my reading up on the mail order bride industry was more incidental than anything.

it seems that there are niches for certain types of trafficking--mail order brides in Russia, sex trafficking and forced prostitution in eastern Europe, domestic workers trafficked from the Phillipines, child sex trafficking and tourism in south east asia... i think there's a definite correlation between the type of trafficking that's prevalent in a certain area and the most disadvantaged and marginalized populations, but i'm wouldn't say that it's necessarily a cultural thing. more opportunism than anything--wherever there's a profit to be made.

and Irvine raises a valid point--not every situation ends in tragedy. i think the mail order bride industry may be less insidious than other forms of trafficking by times as it seems that many of the women willingly and knowingly participate. and yes, not all of the men looking for wives in Russia have sinister intentions. but the power imbalance is still there just the same--the women still end up in a strange country with no one to rely on but the men who brought them here. it's a crap shoot for the women whether they get chosen by a decent man who genuinely wants companionship or a sadistic freak.
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Old 11-07-2005, 10:27 PM   #10
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i wonder if the niches you describe, or stereotypes as i think it is in my case, vary depending on the country? in aus, for example, it is the phillipines which appears is very big into mail order brides and so on. it's quite frustrating as i am sure there is a legitimate problem (rather, we know there is) with illegal sex trade and all that, but there are also a vast number of immigrants from a multitude of asian and south east asian countries here who are naturally going to settle down and marry.

years back, i had a boss who went on a p&o cruise. we fell about the place laughing when he came back and showed us pictures of this girl he'd met, russian, spoke no english at all, and he was smitten and planning a way to get her out here legally to marry. we hoped it was not some visa scam, but then last year i was in a real estate office having forgotten all about him and the story and saw him at one of the desks with a picture of his russian lady and their 2 kids all looking happy and well adjusted. obviously it worked out for them.
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Old 11-07-2005, 10:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by dandy
and Irvine raises a valid point--not every situation ends in tragedy. i think the mail order bride industry may be less insidious than other forms of trafficking by times as it seems that many of the women willingly and knowingly participate. and yes, not all of the men looking for wives in Russia have sinister intentions. but the power imbalance is still there just the same--the women still end up in a strange country with no one to rely on but the men who brought them here. it's a crap shoot for the women whether they get chosen by a decent man who genuinely wants companionship or a sadistic freak.


i think this gets to the heart of the issue.

these women who might willingly enter into some form of human trafficking, whether to good or to sinister ends, are seeking to escape a society that has failed them.

truly, it is the empowerment and education of women that is the key to battling so many of the social problems that afflict all societies, but some more than others.
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Old 11-08-2005, 08:34 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
i wonder if the niches you describe, or stereotypes as i think it is in my case, vary depending on the country? in aus, for example, it is the phillipines which appears is very big into mail order brides and so on. it's quite frustrating as i am sure there is a legitimate problem (rather, we know there is) with illegal sex trade and all that, but there are also a vast number of immigrants from a multitude of asian and south east asian countries here who are naturally going to settle down and marry.
yeah, absolutely. i was speaking in generalizations in the above post, but i'm positive that trafficking goes on in every country on the planet in at least one form or another. it's not talked about a lot in canada, but a significant number of women from southeast Asia and eastern Europe have been trafficked in to work as exotic dancers and prostitutes. a number of women are in the country working 'legally' because of a visa program for foreign exotic dancers, which has been controversial to say the least. we also have a government sanctioned live-in domestic care worker program that effectively legalized bringing in women from the Phillipines, Indonesia, etc. to work. this program has come under a lot of heavy criticism because some of the women have been treated atrociously by their host families. i understand what the government is trying to do by legalizing the women's status, but it's not getting to the root of the problem--many of these women are being exploited and abused just the same, regardless of their immigration status.

Irvine, you're absolutely right. the key is to give women the tools to empower themselves to build stable, safe, productive lives for themselves and their families.
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