Vietnamese migrant brides in Taiwan

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Vietnamese migrant brides in Taiwan have been increasing in number as marriages between Taiwanese men and foreign-born brides become more popular. As of 2006, out of Taiwan’s large immigrant population of approximately 428,240 people (up from 30,288 in 1991), 18% were females who had relocated to the country through marriage. Out of this population of foreign-born brides, about 85% originated from the Southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, with the majority hailing from Vietnam.[1] It is estimated that between the years of 1995 and 2003 the number of Vietnamese women married to Taiwanese men skyrocketed from 1,476 to more than 60,000 individuals, making the Vietnamese the largest non-Chinese immigrant group habituating the island.[2]

The Migrant Marriage Process[edit]

Marriage migration between Vietnam and Taiwan has been made into a procedural and efficient process. Taiwanese men seeking a Vietnamese wives pay a fee of between US$7,000 and $10,000 to a broker. This is followed by a visit to Vietnam where they view and are introduced to a number of potential brides. The man selects a bride from the women that he meets and if it can be arranged, they marry and the bride moves to Taiwan. Most of the matchmaking[ takes place through intermediaries. Usually there is a local sub-agent who the Taiwanese man approaches in Taiwan. The sub-agent usually works through a larger organization that has some sort of counterpart operating in Vietnam. At the Vietnam end a similar process operates with local sub-agents and matchmakers. Travel agents, brokers, travel providers, officials, and interpreters are usually also involved in the process as well. The TECO in Ho Chi Minh City reported in 1999 that they deal with around 250 matchmaking agencies.[3] The popularity of Vietnamese brides has reached such a height that there is now a prime time television show that broadcasts photographs and information about prospective Vietnamese wives.[2]

Reasons for Becoming a Migrant Bride[edit]

The circumstances of the Vietnamese that go to Taiwan as brides are common. Most brides come from the remote countryside of Vietnam, with more than half of the Vietnamese migrant brides coming from the rural Mekong Delta region.[4] As is also common in labor migration, the primary motivation in most migrant marriages, from the female perspective, is economy and security. The majority of Vietnamese women come from families that suffer from unpaid debts, bad seasons of crop, or jobless family members. Marriage brokers promise a life of prosperity overseas. While a Taiwanese man may pay up to $10,000 USD to arrange for a migrant marriage, the woman’s family may only see as little as $100 USD of that money, with the broker taking the rest.[2] Nevertheless, most women, in agreeing to marriage, are under the impression that they will be able to find work in Taiwan and send money back to their families in Vietnam. In one survey of origin households in Vietnam, researchers asked the parents of marriage migrants why their daughters chose to migrate to Taiwan. The top three answers reported were “To help the family” (61.6%), “For a better life” (10.8%), and “To make parents happy” (6.3%).[3]

Reasons for Choosing a Migrant Bride[edit]

Taiwanese men who marry women from Southeast Asia are typically drawn from a less educated and disadvantaged population. While Taiwanese husbands tend to have more education than their Vietnamese brides, they still fall below the average levels of education in Taiwan.[5] Many times a man can be more than a decade, or possibly two to three decades, older than his migrant bride. Seventy percent of Vietnamese brides are under 23 years of age, while over eighty percent of their Taiwanese grooms are aged over 30.[3] All of these factors (lack of education, disadvantage, and advanced age) typically contribute to trouble in finding a bride locally and thus increase the desire to enter a migrant marriage. For many Taiwanese men, migrant marriages can seem like an easy solution to their household troubles, as a wife can act as a reproductive unit, a housekeeper, and a nurse to his parents. In one study, the percentage of women who reported “housework” as their primary occupation rose from 16.7% while located in Vietnam to 52.4% after being relocated to Taiwan. As can be seen in a woman’s primary motivation for marriage (“To help the family”), the Vietnamese have strong familial ties and practice high subservience to a patriarchal structure. This trait is highly prized by some Taiwanese men who feel that Taiwanese women are beginning to wrest away from the constraints of a patriarchal society.[3]

Acclimating to Taiwanese Society and Culture[edit]

Because of their remote, rural origins, Vietnamese migrant brides often lack basic knowledge of what their life will be like in Taiwan. Despite increased resources and amenities, migrant brides often find it difficult to deal with cultural and other issues, some of which include large age gaps with their husbands, demanding in-laws, and difficulties with the language barrier. Although Mandarin language classes are available in Taiwan, many men are not willing to pay the fees for such education, and others seem to prefer their wives continue to be isolated through language.[6]

In the Public and Private Spheres[edit]

In Taiwanese society, all migrant brides are often stigmatized for their poor class, gender position, and the commodified nature of their marriage (Wang 2008). In the nation's mainstream media, they are often portrayed as either "passive victims" or "materialistic gold diggers," and their husbands are often seen as being morally and intellectually inferior.[7] Migrant brides are also seen as unfit to bear legitimate Taiwanese citizens. In 2006, out of every 100 births, 12 were the product of an migrant marriage. Though in recent years public officials in Taiwan have increasingly promoted fertility, in 2004 the Vice Minister of Education Chou Tsan-Te expressed his concern about the "low quality" of immigrants and remarked that "foreign brides should not have so many children."[1]

It can also be very difficult for Vietnamese and other migrant brides to acclimate to their own household. Taiwanese men tend to look at their brides as a financial investment, and expect to be repaid for their monetary loss through reproductive and domestic work.[8] Migrant brides are often expected to work long hours in the household, constantly serve their husband's parents, and prove their worth by bearing healthy children. As in most patriarchal societies, boys are always preferred. If a migrant bride cannot become pregnant or fails to produce a male heir, they run the risk of their husband divorcing them and often face unbearably abusive behavior from both their husband and his parents.[9]

HIV/AIDS Stigmatization[edit]

Foreign brides are also often stigmatized for being seen as a contributing source to the growing HIV/AIDS presence in Taiwan. Taiwanese society often treats migrant brides as a threat to public health and a large burden to the nation, despite the fact that the highest point of infection among foreign brides peaked in 1998 with 1.31% of incoming brides testing positive for the HIV/AIDs virus. Any foreigner who tests positive for the HIV/AIDs virus in Taiwan must leave the country immediately.[10]

"Taiwan Disillusionment"[edit]

Many brides experience what is known as the "Taiwan Disillusionment," where due to their inferior position in their own family and in Taiwanese society in general, they attempt to obtain divorces. In the years of 1999 to 2000, there were 170 cases of divorce concerning a migrant individual. While some brides who obtain divorces return home to Vietnam, others, realizing some of the amenities they have grown accustomed to would be loss to them, often stay and try to find work in Taiwan. This can often be very difficult due to their poor education and language skills.[3] Also difficult to cope with in the event of a divorce is the almost certain loss of custody of any children the couple may have had together, as under Taiwanese law, they belong to the father.[11]

Human Trafficking/Abuse Concerns[edit]

Because a migrant bride is often extremely dependent on her husband upon arriving in Taiwan, it is easy for her to fall victim to abuse or human trafficking. Although many claim incidents of extreme abuse are exacerbated by the media, the matter is by no means unheard of. Many women report being held in isolation by their husbands, who control the monetary funds of the household and often take control of their IDs to stop them from traveling long distances. Taiwanese men often bar their foreign wives from making friends or phone calls, and migrant brides are often unaware of the local laws they can use to assert their rights.[4] For those who do not speak Mandarin, getting help is almost impossible, and furthermore, those who do know the language claim that local authorities and shelters treat them as second-class citizens and often refuse to listen to their stories.[2]

Legal Action Against the Migrant Marriage Practice[edit]

In Taiwan, a new law that forbids women from marrying Taiwan men more than 10 years their senior has hurt business for brokers. In early April 2007, police in Ho Chi Minh City broke up a matchmaking ring and arrested two suspected marriage brokers. A subsequent raid on a home turned up more than 100 women seeking husbands.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lan, Pei‐Chia (2008). "Migrant Women's Bodies as Boundary Markers: Reproductive Crisis and Sexual Control in the Ethnic Frontiers of Taiwan". Signs. 33 (4): 833–861. JSTOR 528876. 
  2. ^ a b c d Jennings, R. (2007). "Taiwanese Men Seek Vietnamese Wives". 
  3. ^ a b c d e Xoan Nguyen Thi, H.; G. Hugo (2005). "Marriage Migration Between Vietnam and Taiwan: A view from Taiwan" (PDF). Seminar on Female Deficit in Asia: Trends and Perspectives, Singapore, 5-7. 
  4. ^ a b Dinh Thanh Lam, T. (2003). "Lessons for Taiwan's Vietnamese brides". Asia Times. 
  5. ^ Wang, Hong-zen (September 2007). "Hidden Spaces of Resistance of the Subordinated: Case Studies from Vietnamese Female Migrant Partners in Taiwan". International Migration Review. 41 (3): 706–727. doi:10.1111/j.1747-7379.2007.00091.x. 
  6. ^ Hsia, Hsiao-Chuan (2009). "Foreign Brides, Multiple Citizenship and the Immigrant Movement in Taiwan". Asian and Pacific Migration Journal. 18 (1): 17–46. doi:10.1177/011719680901800102. 
  7. ^ Hsia, Hsiao‐Chuan (March 2007). "Imaged and imagined threat to the nation: the media construction of the 'foreign brides' phenomenon' as social problems in Taiwan". Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. 8 (1): 55–85. doi:10.1080/14649370601119006. 
  8. ^ Wang, Hong-zen; Bélanger, Danièle (February 2008). "Taiwanizing female immigrant spouses and materializing differential citizenship". Citizenship Studies. 12 (1): 91–106. doi:10.1080/13621020701794224. 
  9. ^ Sam, B. (2006). "Cambodian Brides in Taiwan Face Beating, Other Abuse". Radio Free Asia. 
  10. ^ Huang, Y. (2005). ""AIDs Brides" in Taiwan: Stigma and Discrimination against Female Marriage Immigrants from Southeast Asia". American Sociological Association. 
  11. ^ Kuo, S. (2007). "International Marriage and Intimate Citizenship: A Cultural Legal Study of Family Law in Taiwan". Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Law and Society Association, Berlin, Germany, Jul 25, 2007. 
  12. ^ Hanh, Q. (2005). "VN-Taiwan discuss brides' rights in illegally-made matches". VietnamNet Bride. Archived from the original on September 3, 2010.