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Dec 21 2006

Vietnamese women: worth $5K

Today’s installment of Exploits in International Woman Trafficking comes to Twisty HQ from VietnamNet Bridge, which is running a story with this headline: “Vietnamese women for sale: Malaysian people upset.”

The story so far (I have pieced it together from this, this, this, and this): Malaysian “marriage brokers” import Vietnamese women and sell them to men for private exploitation as wife-slaves. In one version of the story, the Malaysian wife-shopper picks out a live woman, pays the broker, and takes her home like a used car. In another version, the brokers turn out to be “confidence men” (as opposed, I guess, to regular pimps). They lure the women by promising to use part of their purchase price (between $5000 and $8000) to pay the women’s families a “dowry”. Naturally the dowry payment never shows up, and the cycle of oppression is complete: the john has a permanent whore, the trafficker absconds with $5000, and the woman who sells herself hasn’t even the paltry satisfaction of knowing that her suffering has mitigated her family’s dire poverty.

According to the Vietnamese Ambassador to Malaysia, Malaysian people are “upset” because “they don’t agree with the trading of women as commodities.”* See what a small world it is! Just like here in the US, in Malaysia, too, pious hypocrite bureaucrats talking to reporters try to morally elevate themselves and flatter their cronies by pretending they all give a crap about the poor fallen women. But wait — when asked what might be done to stop the sex trade, the Ambassador reveals his true colors. “We will interfere so that this won’t happen any more, as it will make people think ill of Vietnamese women in particular and Vietnam in general.”

Not, in other words, because sexploitation injures women, but because the whole country loses face when newspaper articles start telling of citizens whose circumstances are so egregiously reduced that they would sell themselves as servile receptacles to complete strangers in a foreign country for the price of a used Hyundai. It won’t do to have the world thinking of Vietnam as Earth’s Whorehouse.

The Ambassador neglects to explain just how he plans to keep men from buying women in the middle of a big fuckin patriarchy. However, should the Ambassador ever manage to actually make good on his vow to terminate the Vietnamese wife market, feel free to color me dumbfounded.
____________________________
* Odd, since marriage brokerages are completely legal, licensed businesses in Malaysia.

36 comments

  1. grrr kitty

    Hey, my dad would’ve held out for a new Ford, at least. I’m the youngest of 5 daughters (it’s why I’m Antoinette — they were hoping for Anthony), and if he coulda, he woulda.

  2. DAZZA

    Hard to argue against that assessment, even if I wanted to, which I don’t

    One thing though – you say it’s “Odd” that the Malaysian people are upset when the practice is in fact legal

    Remember alot of countries have laws the majority of people disagree with

  3. Twisty

    True, but my poorly-expressed point is that Malaysians aren’t any more “upset” over poor Vietnamese women than Americans are. It’s not like that ambassador dude hit the streets polling average Malaysians on whether they give a fuck about trafficking. He was just blowing smoke.

  4. DAZZA

    Oh OK I follow you know

    I wonder how “upset” they are

    I don’t know a whole lot about Malaysia, so I couldn’t fairly comment on what life is like there, which makes it difficult to accurately gauge their feelings on this

    It may be that they are very upset but lack a means to express their outrage

    Of course, that may be an overgeneralization of the situation – not all south east Asian countries are governed by oppressive regimes etc etc, but as I said, I don’t know one way or the other

  5. DAZZA

    *I follow you NOW

  6. Twisty

    As a sidenote, I read somewhere in one of the articles on this trafficking thing that the greatest “market demand” is for Vietnamese wives; they’ve edged out th Fillipinas, the Thais, and even perennial global favorites, the Russians. Not surprisingly, within an hour of my having published this post, it had attracted 3 trackback spams from hottt Asian sexx sites.

  7. norbizness

    Underestimate the Malaysians at your peril. And I think your comment will attract another 10… ‘you-knows.’

  8. Lya Kahlo

    “I wonder how “upset” they are”

    About as “upset” as Richard Littlejohn is about the Ipswitch Murder victims.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/columnists.html?in_article_id=423549&in_page_id=1772&in_author_id=322&expand=true

    Don’t – unless you want to like men a little less.

  9. annared

    I have written two comments to that article – and neither has been published. Surprised naa even though I was rather polite – sort of.

  10. redneckmother

    Revolting. But there’s light at the end of the human-rights front — if you’re a robot:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6200005.stm

    Please note that these speculations apply only to actual robots and not to sexbots. Anyone care to take bets on when robots will have more legal standing than women?

  11. redneckmother

    Duh — read ‘tunnel’ for ‘front’. A robot would never make such a mistake.

  12. Mar Iguana

    “Anyone care to take bets on when robots will have more legal standing than women?” redneckmother

    Yesterday. Or, maybe backdated to 1886 when the boys gave corporations Fourteent Amendment protection.

    What will these testerical boys think up next? Trading women as commodities in the global marketplace or something?

    Nevermind.

  13. DAZZA

    Lya -

    You’re angered by Rich Littlejohn? Did you expect more from the BNP’s most favoured journalist?

    And again, how do any of us know what the Malaysian people are thinking

    It is very easy to criticize them from afar, but we don’t know what the lives of “ordinary” Malaysians are like

    What if they have little political recourse?

    I am not saying they do or they don’t, I am just admitting I know virtually nothing about Malaysia, and I am willing to bet most of the commentators here don’t either

    So lets lay off the ordinary Malaysians for the time being

  14. slade

    Dazza…I bet Shirley Chisolm was right: “Men are men.” And I bet that would include those from Malaysia.

  15. Lya Kahlo

    “You’re angered by Rich Littlejohn? Did you expect more from the BNP’s most favoured journalist?”

    I don’t have a clue what BNP refers to and since this is the first I’ve ever heard about Littlejohn, yes, I am angered and find him repulsive.

  16. josquin

    DAZZA,
    The lack of periods at the end of your declarative sentences are distracting. It’s as though the last part of the sentence was truncated, and it gives a quality of floaty vagueness.

    I agree with Slade – it could be Malaysians, it could be anyone- it just looks like another example of being more concerned about protecting women’s “virtue” than allowing women real autonomy.
    I think we can all agree that the patriarchy was not invented in Malaysia.

  17. slade

    “Don’t – unless you want to like men a little less.”

    Or dislike them a little more.

    Thanks for the warning, Lya. I did view his picture and read some of the comments.

    I believe his name, Littlejohn, says it all.

  18. DAZZA

    Lya -

    The BNP is the British National Party, a racist, far-right political party in the UK

    For more see here:

    Wikipedia BNP blurb

    You could very well be correct josquin; Malaysians could be more concerned with silly notions of virtue rather than true autonomy

    In fact if I had to make an uninformed, very loose guess, I would say that that is probably the case

    I just prefer not to commit myself to statements without having more information

  19. redneckmother

    Yesterday. Or, maybe backdated to 1886 when the boys gave corporations Fourteent Amendment protection.

    Ugh, Mar Iguana, that reminds me that corporate entities probably have more rights than I do. Next life, I’m coming back as a robotic multinational conglomerate.

  20. Twisty

    Well, what ever you do, don’t come back as a giant squid.

  21. justtesting

    Anyone care to take bets on when robots will have more legal standing than women?

    Not sure when it will happen but it surely will. There is a Star Trek episode where Data is deemed to be sentient and therefore cannot be property, or that would be tantamount to slavery. So he is granted autonomy and the right to self determination. The episode is called “The measure of a man

    I don’t have a clue what BNP refers to..

    It refers to the British National Party, a racist far-right group who are fairly well reviled over here. They get about 1% of the vote in paliamentary elections, but have won local council seats in some areas.

    Littlejohn is a nasty little shit. Spouts his “anti-PC” hate-speech in the Daily Mail, while the front page are faking handwringing sympathy. He’s the absolute bottom of the barrel.

  22. Mar Iguana

    “So lets lay off the ordinary Malaysians for the time being” DAZZA

    No. Lets not. This commentator knows the lives of ordinary Malaysian women is much like the lives of all women. They are the slaves of slaves.

  23. flewellyn

    I left that Littlejohn wanker a comment of my own. Anyone’s guess whether or not it gets published.

    “And here I thought you Brits were supposed to be more civilized than us.

    This reads like the worst of the screeds from our American right-wing nutjobs, complete with the blame-the-victim mentality, the puerile sex puns and mockery, and the privilege-blind “well, why didn’t they just get help, then?”, as if curing a drug addiction and getting away from pimps and johns who may want to murder you was as easy as hopping down to the corner pub for a pint.

    I’ve got to and it to you, Mr. Littlejohn: this little rant of yours was a wonderful combination of arrogance and stupidity. How efficient of you.”

  24. KTal

    I didn’t even bother to read the Littlejohn drivel, I know better these days as I need to be able to focus on gaining some semblance of success before I die and those asshats just distract me more.

    As for Malaysians, last I knew, their culture keeps up with the rest on the patriarchy scale. Most everywhere in the world does anyway and I see no reason to let off and give anyone a break first.

    If there be any allies to us among the world’s nations, may they demonstrate such and then we shall possibly decide to let down our guard.

  25. KTal

    That last statement sounds a bit grandiose I know, but we can dream eh?

  26. slade

    KTal, I like to dream. Then we have to BELIEVE! Right, Mar?

  27. Loosely Twisted

    I read his drivel (littlejohn) and all the comments. It never really hit home before how much men hate women til I read that, and I cried.
    I cried because they couldn’t get out of that situation anymore then I can get out of mine.

    It sickens me and makes me want to scream in frustration. Why Twisty, Why do they do this when we LEAST need it?

    I blame the patriarchy.

  28. Mar Iguana

    Precisely, slade. Believe in your dreams. I feel so much better since I gave up hope.

  29. caroline

    hey – i posted a long, long response to this – think maybe it crashed, computer problems.. vn aint so good for soild connections. could you advise? i so can’t be bothered retyping the whole thing if it’s up there

  30. caroline

    Eh. It did. Rant mode on again, abiet abbreviated.

    Firstly: Sending women off to get married OS is a legit means of generating income for very, very poor families in Viet Nam. While the idea that you could be a non-virgin at marriage (no, not the men and yes, the teenage abortion rate is very high) is cause for social disgrace, marrying to save the family is considered noble. Women from the Mekong tend to go to South Asia, from the North to Korea, China etc… The poor women that end up in the sex trade in Cambodia get a far worse deal.. The $5000 doesn’t go to the woman, nor to the family in its entirety, they might get 1K. however if your monthly income is $13 a month (200,000 VNDong) $1000 still a windfall. With many people in the Mekong essentially still existing as hunter gatherers, there is little means to improve the economic situation of such families by other means. And given the predominance of the Confucian model in VN and the generally desolateness of life as a poor Viet, marriage sales go on.

    The Official response is not suprising. Because this is such a significant part of the economy in drastically poor areas of the country there is no interest, what so ever, in stopping it. In certian regions it’s actively promoted. Receiving countries might complain – but it’s face saving only. Korea, as Twisty pointed out some time ago, pays an allowance for poor farmers to import their wives. Korea became an issue when about 6-12 months ago a series of ads, portraying Viet women as the most submissive, attractive, returnable etc… went up in Seoul. Ha Noi went nuts – public shaming is the only this that produces political reaction, for both senders and receivers. There is a known case of a 24 yo Viet girl who went to work in Malaysia, left the job and auctioned herself off for about $4000 in a shopping mall. She was taken home by a man over 60.

    I’m going somewhere with this… :) The main issue, in a practical (and entirely non-blaming context – this is what i do, indulge me) is the absence of education for women who are, essentially, being sold into their new lives. If you’ve spent your 18 years gathering coconuts in a shack over the river, you tend to find HCM tough, let’s not think about KL. You don’t speak the language, you lack your sole resource- you community, you have no employable skills, you have no income – you really want to hope your husband is a good guy… The perception amongst many people (atleast in the South, where I’m based) is that once you get outside VN to a “rich” country, everything will be fine.

    Anyway – again – this is a well invested social path. Public national shaming is the only this that produces results, not to stop it, but to regulate this travesty. It’s tragic. anyway… for your reading pleasure…

    http://www.lifepartnermatchmaker.com/eaboutus.html

    Just…. read till the very last paragraph.

  31. zawadi

    Caroline, that’s interesting, (especially the part of the webpage you linked to that emphasises that these young women are from poor and *rural* backgrounds). I’m guessing that this is your area of expertise, so could you tell me – is this, or do you think this can be technically considered, human trafficking or sex trafficking? (I do think so, but that’s not so important). And do the NGOs and international agencies working in the region take a position in regard to this kind of thing?

    As you say, they find themselves in a new country with no security or means of establishing themselves independently so are hugely vulnerable and completely dependent. I’m no expert on these issues and the region – but my girlfriend is, so I’m just speculating based on what I’ve heard from her, that some of these girls can easily end up moving on (or being made to move) from these setup marriages into the sex trade in the new country. Do you think that’s something that happens? Can this marriage trade be considered a conduit into the sex trade for women?

    Re: the ad campaign portraying Viet women as the most submissive and “returnable” (and sorry for asking so many questions): If one of these women’s new husbands decides he doesn’t want her anymore, are they normally enabled to return home, or are they abandoned/passed on to another “trade”/ left to fend for themselves somehow in the importing country?

  32. caroline

    agh! again! i gotta save these posts before i hit the ‘blame’ button.. sorry. maybe it’s in the spambot but we’ve got a bad connect atm from the tsunami off taiwan, and me thinks it just didn’t make it. i am too tired to rewrite. tomorrow!

  33. caroline

    ok. i’ll try again.

    is it trafficking? only if the marriage is coerced. remember, given that the alternate might be marrying your across-the-canal-neighbor and remaining in your little house of twigs over the sewer outlet that is the mekong delta, there are many reasons why a woman might consider overseas marriage an attractive option. NGO’s and int. agencies in the region go for harm minimisation – that’s the general trend all round, as can best be seen. however, there are few orgs. working on the issue inside VN, it tends to be considered a judical/law and order issue.

    absolutely, it can be a conduit to the sex trade. however – so can migration for factory work. when you take poor, vulnerable women and children out of their only support network, the likely hood they will end up in the sex trade goes up enormously.

    re the returning… I reread the korean docs, yes you can return, but the actual word used was “swap” – you can “swap” your wife after 6 months if you’re incompatible. Basically, if you were going to the effort of returning the woman back to VN then there will be no trafficking.. If she was going to be trafficked, she’d have been brought in for the trade (ie: married in for that purpose), or used within a family. your local koraen farmer tends not to have mafiosi connections. so yeah – if she’s being returned, she’s lucky. not one of the ones to worry about…

    one last thing re the trafficking q: it’s important to remember that migration through marriage has been a feature of female migration throughout time. war brides, brides sent to the new world, brides from the homeland to every diaspora in history etc… personally, i think the right to migration is up there with the right to education etc… i think present migration laws are ridiculous – where do we get off saying you’re on that side of the line, i’m on this, so i get these jobs, you get nothing? etc… being able to migrate is a significant/proportional factor for intergenerational financial improvement – that is; migration for the most part makes you better off. we start branding these marriages as trafficking, we’re going to cut off pretty much the only means these women have o leaving vn. which really isn’t necessarily fair to them (whether or not it’s a easy/improved path for them). I mean – i used to think there were problems in gender relations in the west . i’ve been here a few years now (about as long as i can take), and i gotta say… whatever problems we have, confucian societies can really, really, really suck if you’re a young female.

    any more questions ask away. this topic is.. has become v. close to me while i’ve been here (and you want on western/local male/fem relations in sea.. please… ) makes me happy that others are hearing about what actually goes on in this part of the world, in this regard, anyhow..

  34. cc

    oh! last thing :) you didn’t like the work “rural”. my trigger word was feminine – the four confucian virtues for women are :
    right behaviour
    proper demeanour,
    appearance
    proper employment

    feminine women know their place; and shut up. atleast when they’re 18, anyway.

  35. c

    hey there.
    it’s been a while, but i thought i’d come back to this post and give you a bit of an update on the situation.

    follow up was done recently of viet women who’ve married to and moved to koreans/korea in teh past few years.

    30% end up trafficked (post marriages that don’t work out)
    30% report being “very unhappy”.
    that leaves you 40% who report being “untrafficked” or “not unhappy”.

    there are about 45K womem a year going from the mekong delta to korea (hold your indignation – it got up to 75K a year in taiwan. when are people going to realise sex-selective abortion causes problems?).

    the korean government has been taking steps to aid rights education for potential and selected brides. this was something taiwan didn’t do at all, until at 75K a year the abuses were found to be so wisespread that the whole system collapsed. korea is aware of this and trying to put something (not much, but something) in place before these numbers expand even more. which they will, no doubt about it. big part of the issue: ave. age of the women 19-20; most have about a 6th grade education. most knowldge of korea comes from the (some times halarious, always overacted) korean soapies that are big big big in vn.

    two trial projects under way – a “roadshow” thats been going about delta towns, trying to plant the seed that maybe you aint gonna be none in seoul going shopping – you might be the houseslave. there are games, gifts etc.. trying to be as fun as possible, but raise awareness of differeing possible outcomes to chosing to join the marriage lineup. (and you get a cc sized info card with emergency contact numbers for when you’re in korea. easy to hide from hubby. so if it all goes up the kazoo… this is a pretty big deal – how do you get this type of info to these women? one only hopes they keep the cards)

    a one day educaiton program is also starting up for recently selected brides – one day of classes in what your rights are, contacting people for help when you’re there etc.. hopefully in the long term it’s going to be the case that marriage certificates won’t be given unless the woman has attended one of these courses.

    not much, but better than naught, i suppose. the numbers continue to rise. what can you do when people chose to walk into these situations voluntarily? take away their personal agency? they’re chosing between a life of extreme poverty (always as an “em” – little sister) vs. a 2 in 5 chance of being “not unhappy” and maybe sending some money home. what’s the choice? there’s some blaming to be thrown about in there somewhere….

  36. c

    and now, in a dramatic attempt to get this through moderation..

    hey there.
    it’s been a while, but i thought i’d come back to this post and give you a bit of an update on the situation.

    follow up was done recently of viet women who’ve married to and moved to koreans/korea in teh past few years.

    30% end up trafficked (post marriages that don’t work out)
    30% report being “very unhappy”.
    that leaves you 40% who report being “untrafficked” or “not unhappy”.

    there are about 45K womem a year going from the mekong delta to korea (hold your indignation – it got up to 75K a year in taiwan. when are people going to realise s3x-selective abortion causes problems?).

    the korean government has been taking steps to aid rights education for potential and selected brides. this was something taiwan didn’t do at all, until at 75K a year the abuses were found to be so wisespread that the whole system collapsed. korea is aware of this and trying to put something (not much, but something) in place before these numbers expand even more. which they will, no doubt about it. big part of the issue: ave. age of the women 19-20; most have about a 6th grade education. most knowldge of korea comes from the (some times halarious, always overacted) korean soapies that are big big big in vn.

    two trial projects under way – a “roadshow” thats been going about delta towns, trying to plant the seed that maybe you aint gonna be none in seoul going shopping – you might be the houseslave. there are games, gifts etc.. trying to be as fun as possible, but raise awareness of differeing possible outcomes to chosing to join the marriage lineup. (and you get a cc sized info card with emergency contact numbers for when you’re in korea. easy to hide from hubby. so if it all goes up the kazoo… this is a pretty big deal – how do you get this type of info to these women? one only hopes they keep the cards)

    a one day educaiton program is also starting up for recently selected brides – one day of classes in what your rights are, contacting people for help when you’re there etc.. hopefully in the long term it’s going to be the case that marriage certificates won’t be given unless the woman has attended one of these courses.

    not much, but better than naught, i suppose. the numbers continue to rise. what can you do when people chose to walk into these situations voluntarily? take away their personal agency? they’re chosing between a life of extreme poverty (always as an “em” – little sister) vs. a 2 in 5 chance of being “not unhappy” and maybe sending some money home. what’s the choice? there’s some blaming to be thrown about in there somewhere….

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