Vietnamese women duped into foreign marriages

June 12, 2006


Thousands of Vietnamese women, mostly poor and uneducated, are illegally leaving the country to marry foreigners, a senior police official said at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City Saturday.

Nguyen Viet Thanh, deputy head of police, said, however, he was not concerned with legitimate “love” marriages with foreigners. But many of the so-called marriages were actually cases of human trafficking in disguise.


“Those illegally leaving Vietnam and marrying foreigners often fall prey to prostitution rings and are sometimes sold as commodities,” said Thanh who is attending a two-day meeting in Ho Chi Minh City to consider toughening laws to prevent such marriages.


“There are cases in which a Vietnamese woman has to be the wife of many members of the same family. She is treated very badly.”


According to information presented at the conference organized by the Vietnam’s Women’s Union, since 1998 nearly 87,000 Vietnamese women have married foreigners. Of them, 10,700 left the country illegally for the purpose.


Vietnamese nationals are free to travel abroad but if they plan to get married the law requires them to first register. It is also illegal to leave on a tourist visa and not return.


Endemic poverty in rural areas makes Vietnamese women particularly vulnerable to dubious marriage offers. Many who go abroad are forced into prostitution.


Others end up essentially as unpaid scullery maids for their new families. Their problems are made worse because they are unable to speak the language and do not understand their adopted country’s culture or laws. Very often, they have a difficult time seeking help or returning home.


Police in Vietnam say many of the marriages are being arranged through illegal brokerage services and websites. Most of the women go to the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and China.


Between 2003 and the first quarter of 2005, there had been 31,800 cases of whom 70 percent had gone to Taiwan, the conference also heard.


“These women are from poor rural areas and they have limited access to education,” Thanh said. “They go abroad hoping to change their life for the better.”


Vietnam has now set up marriage support centres in five urban areas to provide advice on married life, including information on the pros and cons of being a Vietnamese bride abroad.

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