[Senate Hearing 108-695]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
S. Hrg. 108-695
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: MAIL ORDER BRIDE ABUSES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EAST ASIAN
AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH CONGRESS
JULY 13, 2004
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
RICHARD G. LUGAR, Indiana, Chairman
CHUCK HAGEL, Nebraska JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Jr., Delaware
LINCOLN CHAFEE, Rhode Island PAUL S. SARBANES, Maryland
GEORGE ALLEN, Virginia CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut
SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts
MICHAEL B. ENZI, Wyoming RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin
GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Ohio BARBARA BOXER, California
LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee BILL NELSON, Florida
NORM COLEMAN, Minnesota JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West
JOHN E. SUNUNU, New Hampshire Virginia
JON S. CORZINE, New Jersey
Kenneth A. Myers, Jr., Staff Director
Antony J. Blinken, Democratic Staff Director
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EAST ASIAN
AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS
SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas, Chairman
LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts
CHUCK HAGEL, Nebraska JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West
GEORGE ALLEN, Virginia Virginia
GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Ohio RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin
JON S. CORZINE, New Jersey
C O N T E N T S
Brownback, Hon. Sam, U.S. Senator from Kansas, opening statement. 1
``A Victim's Story,'' statement submitted for the record..... 2
Cantwell, Hon. Maria, U.S. Senator from Washington............... 4
Prepared statement........................................... 7
Clark, Ms. Michele A., co-director, Protection Project of the
Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Washington,
Prepared statement........................................... 16
Hughes, Dr. Donna M., Ph.D., professor, Women's Studies Program,
University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI....................... 23
Prepared statement........................................... 25
Jackson, Ms. Suzanne H., associate professor of Clinical Law,
George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC........ 37
Prepared statement........................................... 40
Miller, Hon. John R., Director, Office to Monitor and Combat
Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State, Washington,
Prepared statement........................................... 12
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: MAIL ORDER BRIDE ABUSES
TUESDAY, JULY 13, 2004
Subcommittee on East Asian
and Pacific Affairs,
Committee on Foreign Relations,
The subcommittee met at 3:02 p.m., in room SD-419, Dirksen
Senate Office Building, Hon. Sam Brownback (chairman of the
Present: Senator Brownback.
opening statement of senator sam brownback
Senator Brownback. I call the subcommittee hearing to
Thank you very much for joining us today. We have got three
panels and a short period of time to do this in. I have an hour
that we can conduct this hearing. So we will need to move
through very vigorously.
Today we will be hearing from three panels on the issues
surrounding international marriage brokers, so-called mail
order brides, and the links that can be made to human
trafficking. I am please to welcome my colleague and friend,
who will soon appear, Senator Maria Cantwell from the great
State of Washington, to be our first panel. Senator Cantwell
has seen abuses against mail order brides occur in her own
State and has authored the International Marriage Brokers
Regulation Act. Her passion for protecting women trapped in
such abusive and dangerous relationships is to be commended.
On our second panel, we have with us former Washington
State Congressman, John Miller, who is Director of the Office
to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons from the State
Department. He has done exemplary work on the issue of
trafficking and has gained international respect and
recognition for that.
On our third panel, we are pleased to have several experts
on the issue of human trafficking who will present their views.
The problem of human trafficking has garnered significant
support and attention over the past few years. Just last
September before the United Nations, President Bush's words
represented a truly historic moment in the war to free the
millions of innocent human beings who suffer as slaves in the
sex industry or in other forms of forced labor. Both the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the Trafficking
Victims Reauthorization Act of 2003 have indicated major steps
by the U.S. Congress to eradicate this form of slavery.
Today's hearing will focus specifically on the topic of
international marriage brokers and international matchmaking
organizations, IMO's, who facilitate the exchange between mail
sponsors and female mail order brides. Senator Cantwell knows
all too well the story of Anastasia King, a mail order bride
who was abused and eventually murdered by her sponsor husband.
Several reports and news articles have indicated in recent
years the disturbing trend of mail order brides who suffer from
domestic abuse. In addition to the reports of domestic abuse,
several of our witnesses here today will speak to the
connection between human trafficking, organized crime, and
these matchmaking industries.
It is my hope that this hearing will serve to educate us in
the Senate, bring awareness and attention to the issue, and
propel it forward in considering how best to protect the many
victims of abuse and trafficking that have arrived through
seemingly legitimate matchmaking organizations.
I want to describe just one story of one victim. I will not
put forth her name to protect her identity. I will submit her
full written statement for the record.
[The statement referred to follows:]
A VICTIM'S STORY
I swear this statement is true.
I was born in the capital city of Ethiopia. I am 29 years old. I
have two younger brothers. My mom is a strong and courageous woman who
supports her family and sacrifices her life for her children. My father
was passed away for long time ago. My mom is an accountant and my
father was a teacher. I have a very good family and I was so happy.
I was grown up in a big city in Addis Ababa. 2.5 million people are
living in Addis Ababa. I went different schools for elementary and
I joined a college and working in part time. My mom help me half of
my tuition and I paid half of it. My mom did this for me and for my
younger brother to help us to be educated.
One after noon when I went to the library to study and also I was
missed one class so I just try to find if some one had a class note. I
want to look at it before I will go to class. That is the beginning of
my new story. I was asking a girl. She was at in the library at that
time to borrow her class note and look at it. When I got her exercise
book. I found a lot of men picture and it describes their age, weight,
height, hobby, profession and so on. They want to meet some one for
relationship. I never heard and saw it before. I knew something about
pen pal. Pen pal you can buy from different organization or you can
find without cost and it is different from this dating service. She
explained it to me. She said it is the same like pen pal you can write
them its good for your English and it is fun. I am not the only one
that day to saw those picture. This was around exam time I remembered.
She photocopied and gave it to me. We just pick what ever we want even
most of us pick the same person. It was not a big deal in a foreign
country to whom one writes letters but whom one has never met in
person. I never heard in my whole life some one married or get a boy
friend from dating service.
After the exam it was winter. In Ethiopia June, July, and August
are winter and the school all over the country will closed. I get the
address on May but I didn't write. I even did not think about it. When
I was to sell my old book. I found it again. I decided to write and I
did. He described him self and his profession is a consultant. I
started writing a letter by describing my self and included my picture
that was it from the beginning.
After three weeks I received two letters from him including his
picture. He described him self-different in his first letter for me. He
said he is a doctor. He does not want to say it the truth about his
profession on those dating services. I went to show to my friends.
Because his reaction is so fast. I always received a letter from him
including his picture and business card every time. He also asked me to
call him. It so expensive for me to call him. I said I couldn't call
you. He asked my phone number. I wrote and sent it to him. Then he
started calling me every other day, night, day midnight it was so
interesting. He told me he love. For me personally it was so funny and
I do not know what is going on. When he said I love you, I did too. I
was sure I would never see him in person. He is from far so I do not
care to say I love you. It was fun to my younger brother to answer his
phone too just to took in English.
He was serious and sends me every time money, clothes and different
kinds of gifts. He also asked to marry him. I said yes. I was sure I
would never see him. He will never come. When be sends a weeding dress
I was so scared. It was impossible to me some one interested in me even
he do not know me in person.
He came finally. He was handsome, seems a good Christian, carrying,
generous and loving person. I was asked him why he was interested in me
and why he didn't married in his country. He told me every one want him
because he is a doctor and has a lot of money not for love. I thought
he really want a good marriage. I felt I was blessed. I do not have any
reason to stop marrying him it was so blessing to met some one perfect
in my eyes for that time. I married him. Every one was so happy for me
and it was just like a dream. We had a very good time. He told me he
will going to apply a visa for me to come to united states. The Visa he
wants to apply was a fiance visa. He explained it takes only a few
months. He said it is easy and it doesn't take long time. He said if he
apply marriage visa it takes more than a year. I do not have any idea
about visa. I was agreeing with him what ever he said. I knew he care
for me and he is also smart and knew everything about his country.
American embassy sends me visa application. After a few months he
left. I was scanning and email every document I got from American
embassy because he asked me to do it. He filled all the application and
sent it to me to return back to American embassy in Ethiopia. Finally I
got a visa. I was planning to stay a little bit longer before I leave.
I have to get done a lot of things. But he made me hurry. I came after
I got a visa two weeks. I was happy and I can't wait to see him and to
live with him.
Second part of my story was so scary. I never expect from him this
king of reaction. I was stayed in his house for three days. He is so
different. He started abused me physically and mentally. I was so
confused. I didn't believe what was happened. I was so scared to death.
He drugged me too sleep long hour. I knew my life is in danger and it
will be over. I can read from his eyes. The way he looks at me was so
different and he gave me wrong information about American people. He
told me to stay in the bedroom. He told me in this country if some one
killed some one and has a lot of money. He will never go to prison. He
showed me a lot of scary movies. I was cried every day and waiting
death. He told me if I went out side and the police found me. They will
arrest me and put me in Jail. He told me before I came do not bring
money and clothes. But I did and he was so mad and spent all my money.
He also had my passport. I do not have any identification with me.
We stayed almost five places with in a month that was so scary too
because it seems he try to hid him self. Even he told me I will
arrested and go to prison if the police found me. I prefer to stay in
jail rather than dying. At that moment we were stayed in motel. I went
out to took to front desk to asked help and they called to the police.
The police took me to the women shelter. After a few days he killed him
With in a month my life is up side down. I do not know what going
to happen next and I do not want to go back home because I was
experienced most of Ethiopian didn't respect a widower. I knew it
because my mom is a widower too. I was just lost and sick. Here I am
with out a closure what was happened and anger, depression, guilt. I do
not have answer for this all my question and I will carry this all for
the rest of my life.
Senator Brownback. This one particular bride, so to speak,
a native of Ethiopia, was introduced to the concept of
matchmaking organizations through an acquaintance at school.
While in college, she decided to practice her English by
sending an e-mail to her new pen pal. She immediately received
pictures and letters of this man and soon thereafter he started
calling her. Eventually she received money and clothes and then
a marriage proposal. Throughout their Internet courtship, she
never believed there was a future for her in the United States.
However, 2 weeks after her visa was completed, she arrived in
the United States and married the man she had corresponded with
for several months.
Upon arrival in the United States, the victim's dreams of
the fairy tale marriage to a caring and loving husband began to
unravel when she was forced to stay in the house for the first
3 days. Then he began abusing her both physically and mentally.
Her new husband, an anesthesiologist, drugged her, forcing her
to stay in the bedroom. Her own words profoundly express the
fear that she suffered. ``He showed me a lot of scary movies. I
cried every day and waiting for death. He told me if I went
outside and the police found me, they will arrest me and put me
in jail. He told me before I came, do not bring money and
clothes, but I did and he was so mad and spent all my money. He
also had my passport. I do not have any identification with me.
We stayed in almost five places within a month that was so
scary too because it seems he tried to hide himself.''
Eventually this victim was able to escape and found a
women's shelter. Her husband killed himself. She says of the
experience, ``Here I am without a closure what has happened and
angry and depressed and guilty. I do not have answer for this
all my question and I will carry this all for the rest of my
This victim was able to present ample evidence
demonstrating that her husband brought her to the United States
under fraudulent claims, and that he tortured her for several
weeks indicating that he intended only to use her as a sex
slave. She was granted a T-visa and was able to receive much
needed medical and psychological care. And I am pleased to
report that she lives, attends college, and works in her
community today. The emotional and physical trauma that she
endured will, indeed, affect the rest of her life, but I
commend her strength and integrity for sharing her personal
tragedy with us. There are many other victims who have been
silenced by similar abuse.
I recognize the many legitimate matchmaking organizations
and do not wish to undermine them, but I hope that many of the
IMOs that make themselves available on our Internet today will
also take an initiative to protect women from abuse and
I want to thank you all for being here today. I want to
particularly recognize and thank the Honorable Maria Cantwell,
who put forward this legislation that hopefully we will be able
to consider and pass by this committee and get it moving
forward, and for her testimony here today. Senator Cantwell.
STATEMENT OF HON. MARIA CANTWELL, U.S. SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you
for this opportunity to address the committee and I certainly
appreciate your interest in this issue that is of growing
epidemic proportions. I certainly look forward to working with
you and the committee on Senate bill 1455 or various additions
or versions of Senate bill 1455 that might be able to make its
way through the U.S. Senate. So again, thank you for this
I also want to thank you for working with me to help bring
the nexus recognition between human trafficking and the
problems of international marriage brokers, and I would like to
say quickly that I had the pleasure last week of meeting with
former Congressman John Miller, Director of the State
Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, passed
by Congress and signed by the President last December, actually
raises the specter of Congressman Miller's position to the rank
of Ambassador-at-Large, calling for an appointment by the
President with the advice and consent of the Senate. So I hope
that Congressman Miller's presence here today will help
expedite his speedy consideration by this committee and hope
that the Senate gives his nomination a speedy approval.
Human trafficking is the politic way of describing of what
is really modern-day slavery. Last month the U.S. State
Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
released a new report estimating that between 800,000 and
900,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across
international borders every year. The report estimates that
18,000 to 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States
When we talk about human trafficking and abuse, we need to
be aware of the advent of for-profit international marriage
brokers, companies that operate solely to connect men and women
of different nations with the intent of getting married.
The use of these marriage broker services has exploded in
recent years with the growth of the Internet. Web sites such as
www.goodwife.com, www.womenrussia.com, and
www.filipinaladies.com tout young women looking for love and
marriage. In 1999 the Immigration and Naturalization Service
commissioned a study that found that more than 200
international marriage broker operations were operating around
the globe, arranging between 4,000 and 6,000 marriages between
American men and foreign women every year. Today experts put
the number of international marriage brokers at nearly 500
worldwide. And based on 1999 statistics, there are between
20,000 and 30,000 women who have entered the United States
using an international marriage broker in the last 5 years.
Unfortunately, women meeting their husbands through brokers
frequently have little opportunity to get to know their
prospective spouse or assess the potential for violence. They
also have little knowledge of their rights as victims of
domestic violence in our country even if they are not yet
citizens or permanent residents. And tragically it is becoming
apparent that there is a growing epidemic of domestic violence
and abuse among couples who met via international marriage
brokers. Immigrant groups and women advocacy groups across the
country report seeing an increase in the number of these wives
seeking to escape physical abuse from husbands that they met
through international marriage brokers. And in several cases,
the abuse has progressed to murder.
In my home State of Washington, we know of at least two
cases of women who met their husbands through Internet-based
international marriage brokers. The first one, Susanna
Blackwell, met her husband, Timothy Blackwell, through an
international marriage broker, and in 1994, left her native
Philippines to move to Washington to marry him. During their
short marriage, Mr. Blackwell physically abused his wife
regularly. Within a few months, Susanna decided to leave her
husband and started divorce proceedings. The Blackwells had
been separated for more than a year, and on the last day of the
divorce proceeding, Mr. Blackwell shot and killed Susanna and
two of her friends who were waiting outside the Seattle
In 1999, an 18-year-old Anastasia Solovyova married Indle
King, a man she met through an international marriage broker.
Entries from Anastasia's diary detail the abuse she suffered at
the hands of her husband and how she feared him. According to
Anastasia's diary, Mr. King threatened Anastasia with death if
she were to leave him, and unfortunately in December of 2000,
that threat came through when Indle King killed Anastasia.
At trial, it was discovered that Mr. King had previously
married another woman that he had met through an international
marriage broker organization. His first wife instituted a
domestic violence protection order against Mr. King prior to
divorcing him in 1997, some information that was not made
available to Anastasia King when she entered the United States.
Sadly there are similar examples of violence across the
country of women who have met their American spouses through
Internet-based marriage brokers only to be seriously injured or
killed by an American spouse with a preexisting history of
violence against women.
In response to those cases, I have introduced the
International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, S. 1455. The
legislation is modeled on groundbreaking legislation passed in
the State of Washington related to trafficking of persons and
called the mail order bride legislation.
The primary goal of the legislation is to better inform
women entering this country as to the prospects of their spouse
and past activity and domestic violence history prior to them
coming to the United States and marrying the individuals.
The bill would first halt the current practice of allowing
Americans to simultaneously seek visas for multiple fiancees by
requiring that only one fiancee visa may be sought per
applicant each year. What we are finding in many of these cases
is that men put in for many, many different women at the same
time coming to the United States.
Currently multiple requests for fiancee visas can be
simultaneously filed with the Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration, and the American requesting the visa will simply
choose to marry the first woman who is approved.
Second, the international marriage broker legislation would
require that brokers would be required to ask American clients
to provide information on previous arrests, convictions, or
court order restrictions relating to crimes of violence, along
with previous marital history. This information would also be
made available to the foreign national.
Finally, the legislation would require a U.S. citizen
seeking a foreign fiancee visa to undergo a criminal background
check, a check that is already performed for the fiancee
entering the United States. Information on convictions and
civil orders would be relayed to the visa applicant by the
consular official, along with information of their legal rights
should they find themselves in an abusive relationship.
Today an American seeking to marry someone through an
international marriage broker holds all the cards. The American
client has the benefit of a complete background check on his
future wife, which is a requirement of the immigration process.
In addition, the brokers provide clients extensive information
about the women they offer, everything from favorite hobbies to
movies and other past activities.
Conversely, the foreign fiancee only gets whatever
information her future spouse wants to share. These women have
no way of confirming what they are told about the previous
marriages or relationships or the client's criminal history.
Most of the foreign brides advertised by the international
brokers come from countries where women are oppressed, have few
educational and professional opportunities, and in some cases
are countries where domestic violence against women is
condoned, if not encouraged. Because of the cultural
differences, researchers say there is an inherent imbalance of
power in these relationships between American men and foreign
Senate bill 1455 would give foreign fiancees critical
information they need to make informed decisions about the
person whom they plan to marry. It puts these foreign brides on
more equal footing with their American grooms.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to address
this issue before the committee, and I look forward to working
with you on ways that we might foster the freedom and free will
of individuals throughout the world who are brought here to the
[The prepared statement of Senator Cantwell follows:]
Prepared Statement of Senator Maria Cantwell
Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to testify before the
committee today. I also want to thank you for working with me to bring
recognition to the nexus between human trafficking and problems with
international marriage brokers.
I would like to say, quickly, that I had the pleasure of meeting
with John Miller, Director of the State Department's Office to Monitor
and Combat Trafficking in Persons, just last week. The Trafficking
Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, passed by Congress and signed
by the President last December 19, actually raises the specter of Mr.
Miller's position to the rank of Ambassador-at-Large, calling for an
appointment by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Having received the appointment, I would also like to say that I hope
for a speedy consent to John's nomination.
Human trafficking is the politic way of describing modern-day
slavery. Last month the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and
Combat Trafficking in Persons released a new report estimating that
between 800,000 and 900,000 men, women, and children are trafficked
across international borders every year. The report estimates that
18,000 and 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States each
When we talk about human trafficking and abuse, we need to also be
aware of the advent of for-profit international marriage brokers
[IMBs]--companies that operate solely to connect men and women of
different nations with the intent of getting married.
The use of these marriage broker services has exploded in recent
years with the growth of the Internet. Web sites such as
www.goodwife.com; www.womenrussia.com and www.filipinaladies.com tout
young women looking for love and marriage. In 1999 the Immigration and
Naturalization Service commissioned a study that found more than 200
IMBs operating around the globe, arranging between 4,000 and 6,000
marriages between American men and foreign women every year. Today,
experts put the number of international marriage brokers at nearly 500
worldwide. And based on the 1999 statistics, there are between 20,000
and 30,000 women who have entered the U.S. using an international
marriage broker in the past five years. While there are a few brokers
aimed at American female clients who are seeking male spouses from
other countries, the overwhelming majority of people who seek IMB
services are men.
Unfortunately, women meeting their husbands through brokers
frequently have little opportunity to get to know their prospective
spouses or assess their potential for violence. They also have little
knowledge of their rights as victims of domestic violence in our
country, even if they are not yet citizens or permanent residents. And
tragically, it is becoming apparent that there is a growing epidemic of
domestic abuse among couples who meet via international marriage
brokers. Immigrant and women's advocacy groups across the country
report seeing an increase in the number of these wives seeking to
escape a physically abusive husband they met through an IMB. And in
several cases, the abuse has progressed to murder.
In my home state of Washington, we know of at least three cases of
serious domestic violence including two murders of women who met their
husbands through Internet-based international marriage brokers.
Susanna Blackwell met her husband, Timothy Blackwell, through an
international marriage broker and, in 1994, left her native Philippines
to move to Washington to marry him. During their short marriage, Mr.
Blackwell physically abused his wife regularly. Within a few months,
Susanna decided to leave her husband and started divorce proceedings.
The Blackwells had been separated for more than a year when Mr.
Blackwell learned Susanna was eight-months pregnant with another man's
child. On the last day of the divorce proceedings, Mr. Blackwell shot
and killed Susanna, her unborn child, and two friends who were waiting
outside of the Seattle courtroom.
In 1999, 18-year-old Anastasia Solovyova married Indle King, a man
she met through an international marriage broker. Entries from
Anastasia's diary detail the abuse she suffered at the hands of her
husband and the fear she had for him. According to Anastasia's diary,
Mr. King threatened Anastasia with death if she were to leave him; and,
in December 2000, this threat came true.
At trial, it was discovered that Mr. King had been previously
married to another woman he met through an Internet-based IMB, as well,
a woman who instituted a domestic violence protection order against Mr.
King prior to divorcing him in 1997. It was also discovered that he was
seeking his third wife through another international marriage broker
when he developed the plot to kill Anastasia.
Sadly, there are similar examples across the country of women who
have met their American spouses through an Internet-based marriage
broker only to be seriously injured or killed by an American spouse
with a pre-existing history of violence against women.
In response to these cases, I introduced the International Marriage
Broker Regulation Act (S. 1455). This legislation is modeled on a
series of groundbreaking Washington State laws related to trafficking
of persons and ``mail order brides.''
The primary goal of my legislation is to better inform women
entering this country as a prospective spouse about the past history of
the man she may be marrying and to better inform them of their rights
as residents of the United States if they become victims of domestic
The bill would, first, halt the current practice of allowing
Americans to simultaneously seek visas for multiple fiancees by
requiring that only one fiancee visa may be sought per applicant each
year. Currently, multiple requests for fiancee visas can be
simultaneously filed with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration,
and the American requesting the visa will simply choose to marry the
first woman who is approved.
Second, my bill would require that, before an international
marriage broker may release the contact information of a foreign
national client, the broker must first obtain her consent to the
release of that information and provide her with information, in her
own language, on the rights of victims of domestic violence in this
Third, the international marriage broker would be required to ask
American clients to provide information on any previous arrest,
conviction or court-ordered restriction relating to crimes of violence
along with their previous marital history. This information would also
be made available to the foreign national.
Finally, it would require a U.S. citizen seeking a foreign fiancee
visa to undergo a criminal background check, a check that is already
performed for the fiancees entering the country themselves. Information
on convictions and civil orders would be relayed to the visa applicant
by the consular official along with information on their legal rights
should they find themselves in an abusive relationship.
Today, an American seeking to marry someone through an
international marriage broker holds all of the cards. The American
client has the benefit of a complete background check on his future
wife, which is a requirement of the immigration process. In addition,
the brokers provide clients extensive information about the women they
offer, everything from their favorite movies and hobbies to whether
they are sexually promiscuous.
Conversely, the foreign fiancee only gets whatever information her
future spouse wants to share. These women have no way of confirming
what they are told about previous marriages or relationships--or the
American client's criminal history.
Most of the foreign brides advertised by the international marriage
brokers come from countries where women are oppressed, have few
educational or professional opportunities, and where violence against
women is condoned, if not encouraged. Because of the cultural
differences, researchers say there is an inherent imbalance of power in
these relationships between American men and foreign women.
Because these women often immigrate alone, they have no family or
other support network and rely on their husbands for everything. Such
dependency can make it difficult for a wife to report abuse without
worrying that doing so is a surefire ticket to deportation. Researchers
agree that isolation and dependency put these women at greater risk of
Documenting the extent of this problem has been quite difficult.
Marriages arranged by brokers are not tracked separately from other
immigrant marriages. However, experts agree that abuse is more likely
in such arranged marriages and that abuse in these relationships is
likely underreported since the women are likely to be more afraid of
deportation than the abuse they suffer at home.
My legislation would give foreign fiancees critical information
they need to make an informed decision about the person whom they plan
to marry. It puts these foreign brides on more equal footing with their
Thank you, again, for this opportunity to come before you and
address the unique intersection of trafficking of persons and the use
of international marriage brokers. I look forward to working with all
of you so that we might foster the freedom and free will of individuals
throughout the world and here at home in the United States.
Senator Brownback. Thank you, Senator Cantwell, and thank
you for your work on this.
One question just pops out immediately. Why would a foreign
bride do this? Why would she come with that lack of
information? As you have visited with some of the women who
have been caught in this type of situation, why would they even
subject themselves to these possibilities?
Senator Cantwell. These women oftentimes come from very
poor economic circumstances. The family of Anastasia King
shared with me the stories of their daughter's hopes and dreams
of coming to America. Often the daughter represents a link to a
new opportunity in America that perhaps once this union is
brought together, that maybe there are other opportunities for
other family members. So while I think the Anastasia King
family was very anxious about her situation of going abroad and
marrying, they thought that it was the best way for her to have
economic opportunity in the future and perhaps thought that
there might be a day and time in which they might join her in
Senator Brownback. And that seems to be the pretty
consistent theme that you see coming forward of why people
would be willing to subject themselves with a lack of data or
information that they might have about the husband they would
be marrying in the United States?
Senator Cantwell. I do not know of any wealthy, well-
educated, well-to-do women who have applied for these brokered
Senator Brownback. Thank you very much, Senator Cantwell,
for your presentation, for your push on this topic. I think it
is incredibly important and I appreciate your diligence in
moving it forward.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward
to working with you on the issue.
Senator Brownback. Same here.
Next, on our second panel, we will hear from the Honorable
John Miller. He is the Director of the Trafficking in Persons
Office at the Department of State. Director and hopefully soon-
to-be Ambassador Miller, I look forward to your presentation.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN R. MILLER, DIRECTOR, OFFICE TO MONITOR
AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. Miller. Thank you, Senator. First, I want to salute
both you and Senator Cantwell. I want to salute you for your
work over the years on this premier 21st century human rights
issue, slavery, and all that you have done. I want to salute
Senator Cantwell, a Senator from my home State, for taking the
lead with this Senate bill 1455 to address an important
component of the slavery issue. I think you are both to be
Fortunately, we have on the next panel some distinguished
NGO witnesses who have worked with this issue and will have
some specific illustrations of what is involved.
I want to focus, if I can, on the worldwide perspective
here. When you look at the slavery issue, we now have reason to
believe that 80 percent of the millions that are in slavery,
internal or external traffic victims, 80 percent are women and
50 percent are children. The two biggest categories are sex
slavery and probably domestic servitude. I think these are two
of the categories of slavery that you frequently have that
victims that you and Senator Cantwell have described end up in.
What do we know about trafficked victims in general? Well,
there are two or three characteristics. There is the
vulnerability of the victims. Senator Cantwell alluded to that.
There is the deception, the key tool of the traffickers, and
often there is government complicity and corruption. Well, if
you look at marriage brokering, you have these features,
particularly the first two features, the vulnerability of the
women and the deception involved. These are features that we
have to deal with.
What we are talking about here, of course, are individuals.
Research is hard to come by in terms of generalizations or
numbers on this issue, but we know from rural villages in Asia
to slums in major South American cities, women are deceived
into leaving their homes and traveling across international
borders in the hopes of marrying men who can provide them
Sometimes the traffickers recruit the victims through
direct offers on the spot. I am going to give an example of
that. Sometimes there is negotiating through a member of the
family, a broker. Sometimes it is through newspaper or mail or
the Internet. Invariably there is a cash payment involved.
Let me just give one example because this is somebody I met
in Cambodia. I visited a faith-based shelter, the White Lotus,
in Phnom Penh, and while there, I met a woman who appeared to
me to be very elderly. I was told that she was dying of
sexually transmitted diseases. She did not have long to live,
and I asked her to tell me her story.
Pou--that was her name--said that at the age of 17, a man
had come to her rural village in Cambodia and arranged through
her sister to marry her. The day after the marriage, the man,
the ``husband,'' took Pou to another village, a fishing
village, where he said he was going to go to work. He took her
to a hotel or what she thought was a hotel. She woke up the
next morning. Her husband was gone. The hotel turned out to be
a brothel. She had been sold, sold into captivity. After
threats and beatings, she was told she had to pay off this huge
debt, the purchase price, before she had any hope of freedom.
She spent years ``servicing'' men.
She finally was released not because she had paid off the
debt. She was released because she had been ravaged by disease
and the brothel considered her disposable. They just threw her
out on the street basically. She wandered to Phnom Penh where
she found this shelter.
At the end of the interview, I looked at this elderly woman
and I said, how old are you? And she said to me, 24. That is
what had happened in the course of 7 years.
In some villages in South Asia, they are now taking
Polaroid photographs of men who come to communities and take a
bride and posting the photographs in nearby villages because
they are so concerned of this multiple operation. This man who
took Pou I am sure had done that scores of times and was going
to do it scores of times again. It gets to the dialog Senator
Cantwell and you had about seeking multiple fiancees.
Well, those photos--that is a good technique where there is
a direct operation. But of course, we are dealing here with
methods that are far from direct. You are dealing, when you are
talking about the United States and women coming from abroad,
with the mail, you are dealing with newspaper advertisements,
you are dealing primarily with the Internet. You are dealing
with marriage brokers, legal brokers, who for a fee introduce
prospective brides to wealthier foreign men and, unfortunately
in a significant number of cases, facilitate trafficking in
We know, as I say, this is going on all over the world.
Just to give another example, we receive reports there is
extensive trafficking of women from Vietnam to Taiwan. They are
married to Taiwanese men, and then when they are transported to
Taiwan, they end up in the brothels. I mentioned examples from
Asia, Cambodia, Taiwan, Vietnam, but it is a worldwide
phenomenon. Just as trafficking not only extends to other
countries in the world and extends to the United States, we can
say that this form of trafficking, as you have heard from the
examples from the State of Washington given by Senator
Cantwell, extends to this country.
So I applaud your efforts, Mr. Chairman, and Senator
Cantwell's efforts to tighten oversight of marriage brokers
operating in the United States in order to prevent the abuse of
vulnerable women and children. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Miller follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. John R. Miller
EXPLORING POTENTIAL LINKS BETWEEN HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND INTERNATIONAL
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is an honor to appear before you. You
have devoted great energy to making America a leader in the global
effort to eradicate trafficking in persons, and you have made a
tremendous difference in the lives of many people around the world. I
salute you for your humanitarian work.
I also salute Senator Cantwell for her humanitarian concern and for
introducing the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act.
Today, as we approach the topic of international marriage brokering
and its potential links to human trafficking, it is important for us to
remember the humanity of the trafficking issue--not just the
legalities--because it is, after all, real people we seek to protect.
I have met men, women, and children around the world who have been
recruited, deceived, forced, and coerced into unimaginable situations
where they are deprived of their freedom, stripped of their dignity,
and abused into hopelessness. I have seen and heard of people who have
been bought and sold into domestic servitude, commercial sexual
exploitation, child soldiering, forced labor, and camel jockeying.
These modern-day forms of slavery are brutal not just to the minds and
bodies of victims, but to their souls.
That's why the United States, under the leadership of Congress and
President Bush, is taking strong action, in cooperation with other
nations, to end human trafficking. We have 11 U.S. government agencies
executing strategic anti-trafficking in persons plans through the
President's Interagency Task Force on Trafficking in Persons. The U.S.
devoted more than $70 million in the last fiscal year to anti-
trafficking programs abroad to prevent trafficking, protect victims,
and prosecute traffickers. We issue the most comprehensive report on
trafficking in persons in an effort to stimulate greater government
action around the world, and we are aggressively stepping up
prosecution and public education efforts here at home.
It is from a worldwide perspective, however, that I am here to
speak with you. Without a doubt, there are many things we still are
striving to understand about this criminal phenomenon known as human
trafficking. But as we get further into our research and examine
trends, we certainly are identifying common threads that bind disparate
trafficking scenarios together.
Vulnerability of victims
First, we know that in a vast majority of human trafficking cases,
the victims are from vulnerable populations. Traffickers prey on those
they deem easier targets: those with little or no financial means who
might be lured by promises of food, money, and shelter; innocent
children who have no means of physically defending themselves; and
people who have been given few or no educational opportunities. In many
cases, traffickers rely on psychological coercion to take advantage of
vulnerable people, but they also use physical force to profit in human
misery. Our most recent estimates reveal that 80 percent of trafficking
victims worldwide are female and 50 percent are children.
Deception as a key tool of traffickers
Second, through data collection and research conducted as part of
our preparation of the congressionally mandated ``Trafficking in
Persons Report,'' we find that most traffickers offer victims false
promises of better lives. Taking advantage of the financial
vulnerability I just mentioned, human traffickers deceive victims with
non-existent job opportunities, financial windfall, and much improved
living conditions. Victims often believe these lies because they have
seen glimpses of other cultures in the media or have heard supposed
``success stories'' from others who have left the country to pursue
their dreams. Sadly, deception is even sometimes used by people they
trust who get money for signing friends or relatives up for human
Corruption as a contributing factor
A third thread we have identified in the fight against human
trafficking is the role of systemic corruption, which provides valuable
cover for those who trade in people. Where governments are not trusted
and not perceived as upholding justice, citizens lose confidence in
their ability to thrive in those nations. They become more desperate
and willing to take unwise risks, making them more prone to trafficking
schemes. Furthermore, when they get in difficult or potentially
criminal situations, victims fear, rather than seek out, government
intervention. This cycle of corruption and distrust fuels economic
instability, destroys confidence in the legal system, and undermines
the rule of law.
So how do vulnerability, deception, and corruption relate to a
potential link between marriage brokering and human trafficking?
Traffickers rely on the vulnerable, and taking a woman out of her
community, transporting her from her country, and making her dependent
on a foreign man in a foreign land makes her ripe for exploitation.
Many women in less developed countries long for a move to a more
developed country where life is thought to be easier. One way ``out''
for women in economically depressed communities is to marry citizens of
more developed countries. And where governments offer no civil
protections, this option leaves women with little information about
their prospective marriage matches and whether they have been married
before, have criminal records, etc.
Traffickers are documented to have used offers of marriage to
recruit women for the sex trade and for forced labor. From rural
villages in Asia to slums in major South American cities, women are
deceived into leaving their homes and traveling across international
borders in the hopes of marrying men who can provide them better lives.
This vulnerability of disadvantaged women is well known to traffickers.
Some human traffickers recruit victims through direct offers of
marriages, negotiating directly with the woman or her family for a
promise of marriage, after which she is delivered to a brothel or a
sweatshop by the ``husband,'' who is rewarded with a cash payment from
the brothel keeper or sweatshop manager for the delivery of his slave.
This was the case with a woman I met in Asia in February. Pou was
17 when a man came to her village and arranged through her sister to
marry her. Shortly after the marriage, the man took Pou to a fishing
village and sold her to a brothel. After years of abuse and torment,
Pou was released by the brothel. Today her body is ravaged by disease,
and this woman in her 20s looks decades older than her real age. Yet
she wants her story told.
To further illustrate the prevalence of this scenario, I'd like to
tell you about the effort of a non-government organization in one Asian
community. The NGO began a program to prevent human trafficking by
taking Polaroid photographs of each man who comes to a particular
community to take a bride. These photos are then used to identify men
who return to the community for brides multiple times, revealing some
men to be traffickers who have no interest in real marriages to the
women they claim to be picking up as brides.
Other villains in this trade, however, use more organized
mechanisms for deceiving women with offers of marriage. We believe
marriage brokers--legal brokers who, for a fee, introduce prospective
brides to wealthier foreign men--are used to facilitate trafficking in
persons. Documenting this trend, however, is not easy.
NGOs and other sources provide anecdotal evidence of this
connection. Recent reports reveal trafficking of women from Vietnam to
Taiwan in which many Vietnamese women are married legally to Taiwanese
men whom they do not know until they are transported to Taiwan. In
these cases, marriage brokers appear to be used--advertising and
recruiting women seeking a foreign marriage as a means to improve their
lives, only to be forced into sexual servitude in brothels in Taiwan.
While the examples presented here deal with Asia, they are stories
repeated around the world. It is important to note that this is a
worldwide phenomenon that likely touches many countries and every
The potential for similar trafficking of foreign women to the
United States using ostensibly legal and legitimate marriage brokers is
real and serious. I applaud your efforts, Mr. Chairman, Senator
Cantwell's efforts, and the actions of others to tighten oversight of
marriage brokers operating in the United States in order to prevent the
abuse of vulnerable women and children.
I am now happy to take your questions.
Senator Brownback. Thank you, Director Miller, and thank
you for your comments on this.
I have been around this debate now from the beginning of
it. The late Senator Wellstone and I worked and pulled and
pushed on this together. I appreciate your maturing the
information because, at first, we did not know the nature of
what all we were really dealing with. We just kept running into
it anecdotally and then some information was coming forward,
but we were not really sure about it. Now as this is coming in
more sharp relief, we can get a much better picture of the size
and scale of what all we are dealing with, and it is profound.
And the different ways it is done and conducted I think is
important for us to be able to get that out and to address
those various avenues, whether it is through some sort of false
marriage proposals or mail order bride type proposals. I think
that is important to do.
Paul and I both looked at this and said this is one of the
dark clouds of the globalization, where you get in a world that
opens up and people can travel more freely and the fall of the
wall and communism and people are able to move. But this has
been one of the dark sides of it, and we really have to
continue to be real vigilant. And you have done a great job of
Thanks for being here with us today.
Mr. Miller. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Brownback. Our third panel is a panel of experts on
this topic. Ms. Michele A. Clark, co-director of the Protection
Project of the Foreign Policy Institute for Johns Hopkins
University, a person who knows this topic very well on
trafficking: Dr. Donna Hughes, professor, Women's Studies
Program, University of Rhode Island; and Ms. Suzanne Jackson,
associate professor of Clinical Law at George Washington
University Law School here in Washington, DC.
Ladies, your full statements will be placed into the
record, so you are free to summarize the points that you would
like to make. I would like, if you could, to stay around 5
minutes so we could have some time for questioning afterwards.
Unfortunately, because of time constraints, we need to get this
hearing done in an hour.
So, Ms. Clark, thank you very much for being with us. I
look forward to your presentation.
STATEMENT OF MICHELE A. CLARK, CO-DIRECTOR, PROTECTION PROJECT
OF THE FOREIGN POLICY INSTITUTE, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
Ms. Clark. It is my pleasure, Mr. Chairman. I thank you
very much for the opportunity to be here today and would like
to begin by thanking you and acknowledging your tremendous
contribution in the war against modern-day slavery. You have
been a dear friend of many of ours in this room and in other
areas, and we thank you for your continued commitment.
I would also like to acknowledge the role of other
government agencies in this, our friend John Miller at the
trafficking office and his excellent staff, as well as
extremely dedicated people at the Department of Labor, HHS,
United States Agency for International Development, and our
Department of Justice, all whose efforts are contributing on a
daily basis to eradicating trafficking.
I also have to acknowledge that without good research
assistants, I could not do my job. I have a wonderful
researcher named Anna Koppel. I would like to give her credit
for her tremendous work in helping us.
We have heard already from Senator Cantwell and from Mr.
Miller the story of abuse that takes place in this industry. We
have heard of the case of Mrs. King. We have heard of the
murder committed by Mr. Blackwell. We know the story of Alla
Barney, a 26-year-old Ukrainian mail order bride who was
stabbed to death by her own husband, Lester Barney, 58, after
she obtained a restraining order against him and temporary
custody of their son on allegations of abuse.
I could continue the stories, and I am sure we will hear
many more, but what stymies me, Senator, as I listen to this,
is how do we get to this point. What has created such a monster
that an industry, mail order brides, which has a relatively
long history, certainly in American social culture and history,
and the Internet, which is destined to provide us with some
good and make our lives easier, have contributed to the
creation of the contemporary Hydra. It seems that every time we
try to knock off one head, another evil head emerges to reveal
how evil this practice particularly is. So I would like in my
testimony to talk about this a little bit, why this is
happening and where the particular points of vulnerability are.
In countries around the world, we have seen how economic
and social collapse, civil war, and natural disasters have been
used as vehicles to deceive, entrap, and enslave vulnerable
women and children into lives of cruel exploitation.
Traffickers capitalize on desperation and need, as do the mail
order bride industries. They also exploit normal desires, and
this is important to realize. They exploit normal desires for a
better life, for hope, for the fulfillment of dreams. Many
women who enter into a contract with an international
matchmaking organization, especially in the booming former
Soviet Union industry, are women with educations, but what they
see is an opportunity for something that perhaps is more
resembling a Western relationship, and when faced with the high
rates of domestic violence and abuse on their own home front,
they find this rather appealing. In addition, they are rather
lavishly and romantically wooed. Our colleagues at the Taheri
Justice Center have done some good research on this very
matter. So it is not surprising that the industry of marriage
should become a vehicle for exploitation, and nor should it be
surprising that the Internet, because of its immediacy, because
of promises of anonymity and lack of accountability, should
become the vehicle of choice.
Now, at the earliest inception, matchmaking institutions,
even the picture bride industry, included the involvement of
parties that knew the groom and/or the bride personally. So one
other answer to the question of why women enter into these
relationships is that in many countries the idea of the
matchmaker of song and fame is actually an acceptable practice.
Usually, however, this matchmaker was someone known to the
women, known to the husbands, known to the families, and was a
common denominator. Now the ``matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a
match'' has been replaced by an impersonal, anonymous, and
profit-seeking Web-based mechanism.
While some matchmaking organizations take a personal
approach to their business, the vast majority of mail order
bride matches now happen through the mediation of Internet-
based matchmaking organizations where connections occur in
bulk, catalogs contain hundreds or thousands of profiles of
available brides, and where matchmakers rarely have personal
Here is an interesting point. With the spread of the
Internet, anyone with a Web connection can now run a
matchmaking business. The industry has ballooned greatly in
recent years and has become very commercial. Many on-line mail
order bride Web sites have taken a pure merchandising approach
to their matchmaking, one with which any of us who go onto a
catalog, a book site are familiar with. Just as we find buttons
that say ``browse,'' ``select,'' ``proceed to checkout,'' these
same setups are visible on matchmaking organizations.
In the written testimony provided to the committee, as well
on the table, we have provided an illustration of what one such
Web site, Alena Russian Bride Marriage Agency, looks like. You
have a shopping cart. Your order list. An instruction to
``preview your order list with photos.'' Another icon tells you
to ``proceed to checkout.'' Underneath this are the words,
``Search our catalog to find your future Russian wife. 100
percent satisfaction guaranty or money back. No questions.''
With the reduction of women to such a commodity very little
different from a sweater, a sweatshirt, or a car part that I
would buy, it is no wonder that the attitude that continues in
a relationship continues to be one of ownership.
Just before I close, let me read you two quotes. One is
from a Filipina woman who ended up in a relationship with a man
through a site called Intimate Submissives. This man said: ``I
need to find myself a nice submissive young lady who wants and
needs to have me control her, teaching a young woman to submit
fully to my wishes. If my wife does not obey me, I am perfectly
willing to punish her in whatever way I think is my right.''
And because satisfaction is guaranteed, this gentleman feels he
has the license to operate in such a way.
In a less gruesome but still telling quote, a young
American potential groom states about women in Ukraine: ``The
girls here, their values and ethics are like American girls
back in the 1950s. They are willing to put their family first,
their man first, instead of themselves.''
And to sum it up, an illuminating commentary quoted on A
Foreign Affair, a Web site for citing Maxim Magazine, which
says why the industry beats the real world. ``Unless you work
for the United Nations, your odds of being introduced to this
many foreign women are a zillion to one. And with a round-trip
ticket to Moscow running some $1,500, shelling out $10 for one
woman's address is a hell of a lot more cost-efficient. Bonus:
fewer tedious discussions about the `relationship' when your
fiancee's vocabulary is limited to yes, sex, and green card.''
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your consideration, and I look
forward to answering any questions you might have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Clark follows:]
Prepared Statement of Michele A. Clark
MAIL-ORDER BRIDES: EXPLOITED DREAMS
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee:
It is an honor to be here before you today. My name is Michele
Clark, and I am the codirector of the Protection Project, a human
rights research institute located at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Advanced International Studies. For the past seven years, we
have focused on documenting and analyzing the complex dimensions of
human trafficking both in the United States and in countries around the
world. We have worked with Members of Congress, U.S. Government
agencies and American NGOs, as well as representatives of foreign
governments and NGOs to develop sound policy and practice in the war
against trafficking and to conduct training, here and overseas, on the
provision of services to victims of trafficking, drafting anti-
trafficking legislation, and identifying victims of trafficking.
Mr. Brownback, I would like to acknowledge your championship of
this issue and your continuing, courageous efforts to end modern day
slavery. On behalf of victims of trafficking in Central and South
America, in the Middle East, in Eastern and Western Europe, in Africa
and Southeast Asia, I would like to thank you for your commitment to
the freedom of these men and women, too many of them children. As
evidenced by the most recent Trafficking in Persons Report, documenting
the status of human trafficking in 140 countries around the world,
released in June by Mr. Miller and his extremely capable staff at the
Trafficking in Persons Office, we have seen that significant progress
has been made, and that the efforts of the U.S. Government agencies
involved in this battle, including the Departments of Justice, Health
and Human Services, Labor, State and USAID are bearing fruit. We also
recognize that we still have a long way to go.
Those of us who have been involved in the war against trafficking
for a number of years have learned many important lessons which assist
us in honing our own efforts to end modern day slavery. One lesson in
particular has been the creativity and ingenuity of traffickers to
adapt to different social, economic and political trends. Allow me to
provide you with a few examples:
When Soviet Jews began leaving Russia en masse for Israel in the
early 1990s, traffickers rightly assumed that the entrance into the
country of a few thousand illegal women for the purposes of being
forced into the brothels of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa would pass
unnoticed, given the large numbers of legal immigrants and the limited
resources to process all newcomers. They were right, and the trade in
women remained fairly covert until the mid nineties.
When the numbers of Chinese workers seeking to obtain illegal entry
into the United States began to grow, smugglers started charging
exorbitant fees for passage to California or New York. Instead of a
family being able to scrape together the full fare, those seeking entry
would pay a portion of their transportation up front and agree to pay
the balance upon their arrival in the United States. In order to do
this, they signed contracts which bound them to their employers until
the debt was paid, turning a smuggling operation into a crime of human
In countries around the world, we see how economic and social
collapse, civil war and natural disasters have been used as vehicles to
deceive, entrap and enslave vulnerable women and children into lives of
cruel exploitation. Traffickers capitalize on desperation and need;
they also exploit normal desires for a better life, for hope, for the
fulfillment of dreams.
So it is not surprising that the industry of marriage should become
a vehicle for exploitation. Nor is it surprising that the Internet,
because of its immediacy, promises of anonymity and lack of
accountability, should become the vehicle of choice for this
exploitation to take place.
Overview of the Industry
The practice of pre-arranged marriages, or mail-order brides,
conducted through a third party, is not new to the United States, and
can be documented as far back as the Revolutionary War. The practice
was further developed during the California Gold Rush and the pioneer
move west when pictures of available women were distributed to men in
isolated regions. At times the mail-order bride industry filled deeply
human needs. Following the Armenian Genocide, matchmaking organizations
facilitated marriages of ``picture brides,'' or women displaced as a
result of the Genocide, enabling them to make connections with other
Armenians in different parts of the world, notably Canada. In this
instance, the service enabled members of a tragically dispersed
community to find one another and reestablish ties with members of
their own ethnic group.
In the early nineteen nineties, the Internet replaced the picture
catalogues and began posting photographs as well as profiles of young
women interested in finding a foreign spouse, facilitating
communication and providing men with access to a larger pool of
applicants. Previously dominated by women from Southeast Asia
(especially the Philippines), the rise of the Internet, coinciding with
the fall of the former Soviet Union and the subsequent economic
collapse which plunged many families into desperate economic
conditions, contributed to the meteoric rise of the Russian mail-order
How Large Is the Industry Today?
The simplest Google search for ``mail-order brides'' yields a
minimum of 500,000 Web page entries with names such as ``The Natasha
Club,'' ``Brides4U,'' ``Plant-Love,'' ``Goodwife,'' and ``LoveMe.'' Out
of the first twenty entries on the Google search, only one entry deals
with the possibility of abuse and negative outcomes of matches arranged
on line. The majority of the entries are dedicated to Eastern European,
Latina and Asian women profiled as mail-order brides looking for
husbands. On an average Google page, firms offering Russian brides
comprise about 30 percent of all advertisements.
Several Sites advertise themselves as warehouses. The ``Mail-Order
Bride Warehouse,'' available at www.goodwife.com, provides a good
indicator of the popularity of the international match-making industry,
which boasts 12,804,307 hits since August 31, 1997.
As of June 2004, we were able to find over 400 Web sites based in
the U.S. offering international marriage broker services; this number
does not include the number of firms operating overseas. It is
estimated that outside of the U.S., there are over 500 Web sites
operating in the former Soviet Union alone, with more than 62,000
Russian and 30,000 Ukrainian women listed in their rosters.
The mail-order bride industry is largely unregulated. Web-based
companies appear and disappear everyday. The international on-line
matchmaking business appears to be thriving largely because of
increased Internet use worldwide, low overhead and start-up costs, and
the seemingly endless supply of eligible foreign women. Today, any man
with Internet access, an electronic photo (even ten years old) and a
credit card number can shop.
Who Are the Brides and Where Do They Come From?
In 2002, 18,621 former fiancees were adjusted to permanent
residence status in the United States. Out of that number, 4,739 were
from Europe (1,476 from Russia and 861 from Ukraine); 9,358 were from
Asia (1,361 from China; 2,392 from the Philippines, 2,418 from
Vietnam); and 966 were from South America (346 from Brazil, 301 from
The mail-order bride trade follows traditional trafficking
patterns, with brides coming from the former Soviet Union countries,
Asia and Latin America, and the clients coming from the West (including
Europe and North America). The nationalities most represented in the
mail-order bride industry are from Eastern Europe (with a strong
emphasis on Russia and Ukraine), Asia (specifically the Philippines,
China, Vietnam and Thailand), and Latin America (most prominently
represented by Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica).
Clients are from the U.S., Canada, Europe (notably Germany, Sweden
and Norway), and Japan.
A Legitimate Industry Goes Sour--From Legitimate Practice to
Exploitation and Abuse
While the mail-order bride industry is not in itself an
illegitimate business, it is characterized by several important
features which render it susceptible to exploitative practices. Without
appropriate safeguard regulations, the industry will continue to be
ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous business owners. Because it is a
commercial enterprise, it favors the interests of the paying clients,
usually men, over the interests of the brides.
Commercialization of the Mail-Order Bride Industry
At their earliest inception, most matchmaking institutions, even
the picture bride industry, included the involvement of parties that
knew the groom and/or the bride personally. The ``matchmaker'' of song
and movies was a regular fixture in many cultures. The mail-order bride
industry as it has developed today is a largely impersonal, multi-
million dollar business where a profit-based corporation now fills the
role of the middleman. While some matchmaking organizations still take
a personal approach to their business, the vast majority of mail-order
bride matches now take place through the mediation of Internet-based
matchmaking organizations, where connections occur in bulk, catalogs
contain hundreds or thousands of profiles of available brides, and
where matchmakers rarely have personal contact with their clients. With
the spread of the Internet, anyone with a Web connection is now able to
run a matchmaking business. The industry has thus ballooned greatly in
recent years, and has become more commercial. Many online mail-order
bride Web sites have taken a Web-based merchandising approach to their
matchmaking, one in which the male clients are taken through a process
of ``Browse, Select, Proceed to Checkout.'' Some organizations, such as
Alena Russian Brides Marriage Agency, even use computer icons similar
to those found on Internet catalogue sites, complete with pictures of
shopping carts and money back guarantees:
A Foreign Affair, at the www.loveme.com Web site, reprints an
informational piece with permission of Maxim magazine, which provides
another type of illustrative description of the contemporary mail-order
bride industry: ``It's a snap to narrow the field. Though your typical
guy won't admit it, 20,000 women are more than he can handle. Luckily,
AFA [A Foreign Affair] has made searching its voluminous database as
easy as ordering a pizza.\3\ As the mail-order bride industry becomes
an increasingly commercial affair, this leads the clients to view
marriage with a foreign woman as a commercial transaction, one
characterized by a ``satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back
approach.'' Further, if the client is not satisfied with the provided
product, he can always ``return and exchange'' his bride, which some
men have done with disastrous consequences. In the famous Anastasia
King case, Indle G. King Jr. was convicted in September 2002 for the
first-degree murder of his second mail-order bride. According to King's
testimony, he had not been satisfied with his first ``product.'' \4\ He
then righted that wrong by taking revenge on his second try.
Money-back guarantees usually mean that, if a client does not find
a satisfactory match within a specified time, he is entitled to a
refund of his money. Within this framework, matchmaking organizations
have little incentive to seek out information from their male clients
as to their potentially negative personal histories including criminal
records and marital history. In the interest of profit, what matters is
the quantity of the matches being made by the matchmaking organization
rather than the quality of the matches made.
Commercial Stereotyping in the Mail-Order Bride Industry
Matchmaking organizations build their business by taking advantage
of and marketing cultural stereotypes. The danger with these
stereotypes stems from their inherent flaws in describing reality and
the possible consequences of such misrepresentations. In relationships
like those of the mail-order bride variety, where partners know very
little about each other, stereotypes can play a destructive role,
potentially leading to abuse. Many matchmaking Web sites advertise
their mail-order brides (implicitly, or in some cases, explicitly) as
submissive, docile, faithful and loving domesticated wives who are
looking to build a traditional, old fashioned home in which they will
cater to their man. It is not unlikely that the men who choose to
pursue the search for a wife through the mail-order bride path might be
looking for just such a woman. It is also likely that a man who is
seeking out a submissive woman is not seeking an equal partnership, but
rather a relationship of dominance and control.\5\ It is further likely
that a man who marries a bride from a mail-order match will expect her
to fit this stereotype. However, stereotypes are unlikely to reflect
the reality of the personalities of even a minority of the women which
they advertise. It then becomes likely that if a wife turns out not to
``live up'' to the advertised standard, the husband, who was seeking
control in a relationship, might turn to abuse in order to force the
wife to live up to that standard. While little research has been done
to investigate this issue, the little information available does point
to the fact that men seeking mail-order brides might indeed be
searching for the stereotyped women. Even more poignantly, the
businesses of mail-order brides would not be marketing a stereotype for
which there is little demand. A Filipina quotes a letter which she has
received from an interested man who found her photo through the
``Intimate Submissives Web site'': ``. . . I need to find myself a nice
submissive young lady who wants and needs to have me control . . .
teaching a young woman to submit fully to my wishes . . . If my wife
does not obey me, I am perfectly willing to punish her in whatever way
I think is right . . .'' \6\ In a less gruesome, but still telling
quote, a young American potential groom states about women in Ukraine
``The girls here, their values and ethics are like American girls back
in the 195Os, they're willing to put their family first, to put their
man first instead of themselves.'' \7\ And to sum it up, an
illuminating commentary quoted on A Foreign Affair's Web site from
Maxim Magazine: ``Why it [Mail-order Bride Industry] beats the real
world: `Unless you work for the United Nations, your odds of being
introduced to this many foreign women are a zillion to one. And with a
round-trip ticket to Moscow running some $1,500, shelling out $10 for
one woman's address is a hell of a lot more cost-efficient. Bonus:
fewer tedious discussions about the ``relationship'' when your
fiancee's vocabulary is limited to yes, sex, and green card.' '' \8\
Inherent Bias Against the Mail-Order Bride: Exploitation of Conditions
As the mail-order bride industry is first and foremost a business,
the customer's satisfaction is logically the central concern. Because
the paying clients are male, the bride is reduced to the condition of
commodity. Protective mechanisms exist to safeguard the potential
husbands, but not the potential brides. The mail-order brides face
conditions of vulnerability prior to marriage with their potential
grooms, during the matchmaking process, and after the marriage takes
A significant imbalance leading to a condition of vulnerability
concerns the information about partners available to prospective brides
and grooms. Potential brides generally receive information which has
been volunteered by the potential husband himself. While matchmaking
organizations have incentive to provide their paying male clients with
``quality'' brides, the incentive is much smaller for providing the
prospective brides with similar information about their possible
husbands, especially considering the seemingly unrelenting supply of
available brides. Matchmaking organizations commonly do not screen
their male clients for past criminal records or records of domestic
violence, abuse or restraining orders. According to Bob Burrows, the
President of Cherry Blossoms, one of the longest-running and largest
mail-order bride agencies in the United States, a ``serial murderer
could write to [Cherry Blossoms] and there's no screening done.'' \9\
While background checks on the brides are sometimes provided to the
potential husbands to minimize the chances of the foreign woman
``swindling'' the male clients, the same background checks are not done
about the potential husbands to minimize chances of abuse against the
brides. The industry therefore almost en masse ignores the potential
repercussions of these marriages on the women, while focusing squarely
on the potential repercussions of the marriages on the men, leaving the
brides to be in a more vulnerable position than the grooms.
Most matchmaking organizations make their profits from the
arrangement of marriages between two worlds--the first and the third.
Similar to the trafficking in persons industry, husbands tend to come
from wealthy, stable economies, while the brides originate from
economically unstable or vulnerable environments. Additionally, the
mail-order brides are in conditions of economic vulnerability before
and after their marriage to their first-world husbands. Most women
search for a husband abroad out of economic need, as demonstrated by
the one-way direction of the marriages--no Web sites exist advertising
American or German women as mail-order brides in El Salvador or the
Ukraine, for example. However, when these brides find themselves
married in the first world, they are dependent economically on their
husbands especially in the early days of their lives in a new country.
They thus continue to face economic vulnerability and dependency until
the time comes when they are able to support themselves financially.
An additional bias stems from the fact that the brides enter a
foreign country, a foreign culture, and a foreign community, in which
few of them have any networks of support other than the husband--the
matchmaking agencies tend not to stay involved in the future of a
marriage. The husband, who has brought a wife into his natural
environment, is by default in his comfort zone, while the wife is
vulnerable to the intricacies of a culture she is not familiar with,
often without the knowledge of the language. She is again dependent in
many ways on the husband until she begins to navigate the culture
Additionally, because the brides are usually from a foreign
country, they are in a legally vulnerable status, dependent on their
newly found husbands for continued legal presence in their new homes.
In the United States, a woman arriving on a fiancee visa is to be
married to her proposed fiancee within 90 days of entry (there is no
legal way to extend this limit), or she is to face deportation. Upon
marriage, she is granted a conditional resident status, which is again
dependent on her husband, as applications are filed jointly. Again,
before the expiration of the continued status, the wife and the husband
must appear in court together to request removal of conditionality.
Divorce cannot be an option for two years, otherwise the wife loses her
immigrant status. The bride is therefore continuously placed at the
mercy of her husband and lives under the constant threat of possible
deportation.\10\ While recent laws have been enacted to allow immigrant
women who have suffered abuse at the hands of their American husbands
to file alone for permanent residence, few women are informed of this
law. In 1996 matchmaking organizations were required by law to disclose
information about immigration laws to its brides or pay $20,000 fines,
but it is not clear how well-enforced this law has been. The legal bias
is therefore also in favor of the men, and not the brides.
Lack of Industry Regulation
The low start-up costs and the ease of creating a matchmaking
organization online create conditions that are ripe for abusive
practices. Few standards exist for the operation of these agencies
other than the U.S. imposed fine for failure to disclose immigration
information. For example, in a rare effort of the mail-order bride
industry to self-regulate, matchmaking agencies which market brides
through catalogs as well as over the Internet, claim that they refrain
from sending catalogs to prison addresses. However, some journalists
have found references to access to catalogs within the prison
system.\11\ The lack of regulation of the industry leaves it open to a
wide array of potential criminal violations, the most important being
the trafficking in persons for sex and labor under the guise of mail-
order marriages, the ease of entry of organized crime into such
business, and the recruitment of minors as potential mail-order brides,
as well as the organization of sex tours which could involve minors
under the guise of ``romance tours.'' Nongovernmental organizations
have linked matchmaking organizations based in Russia with Russian
organized crime, and romance tours have been observed to serve as
fronts for high-level prostitution rings.\12\ Marie Claire Belleau, in
``Mail-order Brides in a Global World,'' quotes an interview with a
Canadian Social Worker in a shelter for immigrant women who have
experienced spousal abuse, who states that ``In the worst case
scenario, the First World Husband assumes the role of a pimp, who takes
away the bride's passport and forces her into prostitution. At one
extreme, the pimp may go so far as to undertake serial sponsorships of
immigrant women to supply new recruits for prostitution rings. If this
is the case, he will hold the bride in debt bondage because he paid for
her to immigrate to North America, and then force her to participate in
slavery-like practices in order to obtain her freedom.'' Without
regulation, Web-based matchmaking organizations can easily recruit
women into prostitution rings. Some may charge potential brides
exorbitant fees for matching them up with a husband, and then place
them in debt bondage. The Council of Europe has recently pointed to the
lack of regulation of the mail-order bride industry in its April 2004
Report on ``Domestic Slavery: Servitude, Au Pairs and Mail-order
Brides,'' and called for some type of regulation. The Council of Europe
stated that ``it is in the interest of the more serious agencies to
accept some type of regulation . . . the persons responsible for a site
should be clearly identifiable, users of the site should be forced to
identify themselves, marriages should be kept track of, and an
emergency contact number should be provided for when things go wrong.
Agencies should also do a background check on the prospective
bridegroom to check for a criminal record (e.g. domestic violence or
procurement) when couples come close to marriage.'' Further, the
Council of Europe recommended considering including ``mail-order
brides'' in the scope of its draft convention against trafficking in
human beings, and the development of an accreditation system for
matchmaking agencies which would commit them to adherence to a number
of agreed upon minimum standards which would serve to protect the
potential mail-order brides.
Regulation is urgently needed to eliminate the existing biases that
favor the male clients and to counter with protective regulation the
conditions of vulnerability mail-order brides find themselves in within
the contemporary context of the mail-order bride industry.
Documentation of Abuse
Physical Abuse: Ngan, a twenty-one year old Filipina came to the
United States having married a U.S. citizen through an international
matchmaking organzation. She endured repeated physical assaults at the
hands of her husband who had decided that he had not receive the
picture bride that he had ordered. Frightened in the beginning, Ngan
did not report what had happened to her. As the violence increased,
Ngan's neighbors rescued her, and from the hospital she was placed in a
shelter for battered Asian women.\14\
Physical Abuse, Forced Motherhood and Threats of Deportation: In a
story of forced motherhood, Raco, a twenty-four year old Filipina,
married a U.S. citizen, who had corresponded with her romantically for
ten years. Soon after her marriage, Raco began to be severely beaten by
her husband. Because she did not want to bear children immediately, the
assaults against her became more severe. When Raco did become pregnant,
she was threatened by her husband who said that he would not sponsor
her permanent residence if she did not carry the child to term. She
finally fled to a shelter, after the beatings continued to intensify
even when she decided to keep the child.\15\
Physical Abuse, Threats of Deportation, Restriction of Movement and
Murder: In the most famous mail order bride abuse case, Anastasia King
from Kyrgyzstan married Ingle King, Jr., who strangled her to death in
September 2000. It has been reported that in her diaries, Anastasia
wrote that she was sexually and physically assaulted by King, that he
withheld her college tuition, restricted her freedom of movement, and
threatened her with deportation and death.\16\
Physical Abuse and Murder: Alla Barney, a twenty-six year old
Ukrainian mail order bride was stabbed to death by her husband, Lester
S. ``Stuart'' Barney, 58, after she had obtained a restraining order
against him and temporary custody of their son on allegations of abuse.
Alla had met Barney through an online mail order bride service.\17\
Physical Abuse and Murder: After a year long courtship, Susana
Remerata, a Filipina, married Timothy Blackwell, who had found her on
the Asian Encounters Web site. After their wedding in the Philippines,
Blackwell became abusive and attempted to choke Susana on several
occasions. Susana had filed for divorce, but before the proceedings
were set to begin, Blackwell shot and murdered Susana and her unborn
child in a Seattle Courthouse.\18\
Sexual Abuse of a Child, Forced Labor: Norman H. McDonald pled
guilty to sexually abusing his Ukrainian mail order wife's daughter
since the age of 3. McDonald had also forced his wife to hold
Physical Abuse, Failure to Provide Immigration Information:
Nataliya Fox, a Russian who came to the United States on a K-1 visa,
has recently filed a lawsuit against Encounters International, a long-
standing matchmaking service in Maryland. Nataliya was originally set
to marry a Virginian whom she had met through Encounters, but upon the
failure of that marriage, Encounters set her up with another match,
James Fox. Nataliya and James were married within the month, however
Nataliya was severely assaulted by James while she was breastfeeding
their newborn daughter. A few months prior to that incident, Nataliya
had informed Encounters that her husband had hit her. Nataliya's
lawsuit charges Encounters with failing to have run a background check
on her husband's previous history (which includes an accusation from a
former fiancee of his attempt to strangle her to death) and with
failing to provide her with the legally required immigration
information about her ability to self-petition for permanent residence
as a battered immigrant woman. James Fox is currently married to
another mail-order bride.\20\
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, on behalf of these women,
and the thousands more whose stories we never hear about but who endure
lives of horrible abuse, we urge you to take aggressive action to
protect these women who, in many cases, have done nothing more than
tried to follow their dreams.
Thank you for your time.
\1\ USCIS 2002 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, accessed July 9,
2004 at http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/aboutus/statistics/IMM02yrbk/
\2\ Picture and quote from Alena Russian Bride Marriage Agency,
accessed July 9, 2004 at http://www.alena-marriage-agency.com/.
\3\ A Foreign Affair, accessed July 10, 2004 at, http://
\4\ David Fisher, ``Indle King Found Guilty of Killing Mail-Order
Bride,'' Seattle Post-Intelligence Reporter, February 22,2002.
\5\ Robert J. Scholes, PhD, ``The `Mail-Order Bride' Industry and
Its Impact on U.S. Immigration,'' accessed July 9, 2004 at http://
uscis.gov/graphics/aboutus/repsstudies/Mobappa.htm, quoting Glodava,
Mila and Richard Onizuka, ``Mail Order Brides: Women for Sale,'' 1994.
\6\ Quote from Media Rights, synopsis of ``Say I Do `Mail-Order
Brides,' '' accessed July 10, 2004 at http://www.mediarights.org/
\7\ Sara Rainsford, ``Romance Tourists' Head East,'' BBC News, July
\8\ A Foreign Affair, accessed July 10, 2004 at, http://
\9\ Quote from Vanessa B.M. Vergara, ``Abusive Mail-Order Marriage
and the Thirteenth Amendment,'' Northwestern University Law Review,
\10\ Vanessa B.M. Vergara, ``Abusive Mail-Order Marriage and the
Thirteenth Amendment,'' Northwestern University Law Review, Summer
\11\ Lena H. Sun, ``The Search for Miss Right Takes a Turn Toward
Russia,'' The Washington Post, March 8, 1998.
\12\ See, for example, ``Crime and Servitude: An Expose of the
Traffic in Women for Prostitution from the Newly Independent States,''
Global Survival Network, 1997.
\13\ Marie-Claire Belleau, ``Mail-Order Brides in a Global World,''
Albany Law Review, 2003.
\14\ Michelle J. Anderson, ``A License to Abuse: The Impact of
Conditional Status on Female Immigrants,'' From the Web site, Mail
Order Brides and the Abuse of Immigrant Women, synopsis of by Anderson,
Michelle J., accessed on July 11, 2004 at http://nostatusquo.com/ACLU/
\15\ Michelle J. Anderson, ``A License to Abuse: The Impact of
Conditional Status on Female Immigrants,'' from the Web site, Mail
Order Brides and the Abuse of Immigrant Women, synopsis of by Anderson,
Michelle J., accessed on July 11, 2004 at http://nostatusguo.com/ACLU/
\16\ Mae Bunagan, ``Cash on Delivery,'' accessed on July 12, 2004
\17\ Troy Graham and Joseph A. Gambardello, ``Police say Husband
Killed His `Mail-Order' Wife,'' The Inquirer, October 1, 2003. Accessed
on July 12, 2004 at http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/
\18\ Mae Bunagan, ``Cash on Delivery,'' accessed on July 12, 2004
\19\ ``Man Pleads guilty to Sex Abuse of Mail-Order Bride's
Daughter,'' The Associated Press State and Local Wire, February 26,
\20\ Nadya Labi, ``The Business of Mail-Order Marriage,'' Legal
Affair, accessed on July 12, 2004 at http://www.legalaffairs.org/
Senator Brownback. Well, it is a commodification, is it
not? And it is a reduction of the human person to, as you say,
an ownership type relationship and a degrading of the
institution of marriage as well. I look forward to talking more
STATEMENT OF DONNA M. HUGHES, PH.D., PROFESSOR, WOMEN'S STUDIES
PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND
Dr. Hughes. Good afternoon, Senator Brownback. It is very
good to be here. Thank you for your leadership on these issues.
Each year thousands of women marry men they have met
through marriage agencies. Driven by poverty, unemployment, and
media images of Western lifestyles, women accept risky offers
of marriage in hope of finding a better life. Although some
women may find the love and opportunities they seek, many
become victims of violence, sexual exploitation, and sex
From examining the Web sites of marriage agencies, one can
see that the women are marketed using sexual, racial, and
ethnic stereotypes. The Web sites often include sexualized and
semi-nude pictures of the women. The descriptions of the women
claim that they are dedicated to a subservient role, solely
oriented to pleasing men. The women are clearly being marketed
to men who have been failures at establishing relationships
with American women.
From my contacts and what we have heard earlier, we know
that there are many documented cases of domestic violence
involving women who have come here through marriage agencies,
so I will not go into detail on that.
One of the things that I have documented through my
research is that you can find underage girls and children on
these marriage sites. One marriage agency offered women from
Asia and Eastern Europe, and I have found blatant and subtle
marketing of children for sexual purposes. One mail order bride
agency from the Philippines had 19 girls aged 17 or younger.
Several of the marriage agencies offering women from Russia,
Ukraine, and Moldova have underage girls, ranging in age from
10 to 16 years of age, and listed them as looking for
correspondents and as being future wives for men abroad.
There are also images and texts on marriage Web sites that
have raised my suspicions that pedophiles may seek a vulnerable
foreign wife with children as a way of having sexual access to
children. For example, on Web sites you will see pictures of
nude children in sort of seemingly innocent scenes like playing
in the water in a fountain on a street, but when that is
juxtaposed beside a mail order bride, then you can see that
this would have interest for pedophiles.
These agencies are also specialized in women or girls from
extremely vulnerable populations. One marriage agency that I
documented operates from inside a Russian government social
service agency that provides medical and social assistance to
families with disabled children, single parent families, and
other vulnerable layers of the population.
I also have documented marriage agencies offering
introduction services and pornography of women with
disabilities. The services are marketed to men with fetishes
for missing limbs and congenital malformations. On the same
agency site are photographs of orphans with disabilities, and
the viewers are urged to adopt them. It would be very easy to
see how predators could then get access to some very vulnerable
women and children in this way.
Senator Brownback. Do you have the listing of those sites
that we could get a look at that?
Dr. Hughes. Yes, I can give you all those details.
Senator Brownback. Thank you.
Dr. Hughes. In the 1990s, the Government of the Philippines
banned the operation of marriage agencies and sex tour
agencies. I do not know if there has ever been any
prosecutions, but this new law did cause American operators of
marriage agencies to move out of the Philippines. So I thought
that was quite interesting. Although one American man continues
to operate his marriage agency business from the United States,
he has his own Filipina bride that he sends back in to contact
women and recruit for his bride agency. But that is something
for us to consider in the law. If the operation of a mail order
bride agency is illegal in the Philippines, is it acceptable
for a U.S. citizen to run a mail order bride agency with
Filipino women in them? It is something to think about.
Many of the marriage agencies are part of larger commercial
operations that offer a number of services, some of which are
blatantly connected to the sex industry and involve the sexual
exploitation of women. These multiple services include tours
for men to meet the women, escort services, which is the
euphemism for prostitution, modeling agencies, production of
pornography, and travel agencies. A number of the marriage
agencies' Web sites have links to pornographic Web sites and
prostitution services. So it is easy to see how the
intersections of these types of services would enable the
sexual exploitation and trafficking of women.
It is easy to document how marriage agencies are involved
in many forms of sexual exploitation. It is harder to prove
involvement of these agencies in sex trafficking as the crime
is defined by law, meaning that it is for purposes of the
commercial exploitation and requires force, fraud, or coercion,
although information from nongovernmental organizations working
in these countries indicates that marriage agencies are
involved in sex trafficking.
In St. Petersburg, I met with NGO representatives who said
that marriage agencies are well organized businesses and
protected by the political-business-criminal networks there,
and as in other cities in Russia, the same people who own
marriage agencies also own foreign travel and employment
agencies, some of which are known to be traffickers.
When you think about a marriage agency, what it has is it
has collected a pool of women, usually young, all indicated
that they want to travel abroad or even to emigrate to go
abroad. They tend to be single and able to move, and because of
the information they collect, the agency now has extensive
personal information about the women and their families and we
know that that information is often used by traffickers then to
coerce the women either into prostitution or staying in
prostitution. So I think these agencies have really created a
data base and a pool of women from which they can recruit
Since I saw the light go off, I will stop there.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Hughes follows:]
Prepared Statement of Donna M. Hughes, Ph.D.
Each year, thousands of women marry men they have met through
marriage agencies. Driven by poverty, unemployment, and media images of
Western lifestyles, women accept risky offers of marriage in hope of
finding a better life. Although some women may find the romance and
opportunities they seek, many become victims of violence, sexual
exploitation, and sex trafficking.
In the 1980s, the mail-order-bride industry was small and brokers
had to use printed catalogues or advertisements in the back of
magazines to reach male customers. At that time, most of the women were
recruited from Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and
Thailand. In the early 1990s, two historical developments coincided to
turn the mail-order bride market into a profitable, global business:
the first was the collapse of the Soviet Union with the opening up of
the borders for people, particularly women, to migrate, and the second
was the digital information revolution of the Internet. The marriage
brokers quickly moved to the Internet, which enabled them to expand and
update their catalogue offerings and reach a global market of men
quicker, easier, and less expensively.
Women who find partners through marriage agencies are probably at
higher risk of becoming victims of violence and exploitation. From
examining the Web sites of marriage agencies, one can see that the
women are marketed using sexual, racial, and ethnic stereotypes. The
Web sites often include sexualized and semi-nude pictures of the women.
The descriptions of the women claim that they are dedicated to a
subservient role, solely oriented to pleasing men. The women are
clearly being marketed to men who have been failures at establishing
relationships with American women. These men frequently blame their
failed relationships on the character of American women. One agency
said it was there to assist men in finding a ``loving and devoted''
woman whose ``views of relationships have not been ruined by
unreasonable expectations.'' The advertisement on this agency's Web
site said that these women were ``known to be pleasers and not
competitors. They are feminine, NOT feminist.'' The following is
another example of how Filipina women are marketed to American men:
It is less common to find an American woman who is interested
in having a permanent marriage and family including a Husband.
One easy way to see this is to look at ANY publication
containing ``personals'' ads. The women want someone who looks
a certain way, and who has certain ``social skills'' such as
dancing or clever conversation, someone who is interesting and
exciting and seductive. Now go to my Web page
(www.filipina.com) and look at what the girls say they want.
It's all pretty simple, really. Over and over they state that
they are happy to settle down FOREVER with a MAN who is willing
to try to hold down a steady job and be a loving and
understanding husband and father. This will get you exactly NO
WHERE with an American girl!!!!!''
From my contacts with domestic violence service providers, I have
heard about numerous cases in which mail-order-brides ended up being
battered, imprisoned, and sadistically sexually abused. There are
documented cases of women being abused and/or murdered after marrying a
man they met through a ``marriage agency.'' In a well-publicized case,
an American man was convicted of murdering his ``mail-order-bride''
from Kyrgyzstan. Previously, he had another Russian ``mail-order-
bride'' before the wife he murdered. She had divorced him. The murderer
said that the second wife would not be allowed to leave. There have
been other cases of women who met American men through these agencies
being seriously victimized and murdered.
There have been documented cases of photographs being used on
marriage agency Web sites without the women's knowledge or permission.
In one case, a model, whose nude pictures appeared in an American
online catalogue claimed that a photographer, for whom she had worked,
sold the pictures without her permission to the marriage agency, along
with her address and phone number. Upon investigation, the owner of a
modelling agency that specialized in pornography admitted that he sold
nude photographs of women to the marriage agency.
underage children on marriage agency web sites
On marriage agency Web sites offering women from Asia and Eastern
Europe, I found blatant and subtle marketing of children for sexual
One mail-order-bride agency from the Philippines had 19 girls aged
17 or younger. The following are descriptions of three of the youngest
ID # V001--Hazel; Age: 13; Height: 53" (160 cm); Weight 95
lb. (43 kg); Children: none; Looking for a mate in age range
20-35. ``I am now a freshman student at Saint Pius School. . .
. I like outdoors having fun. I like to read magazine which is
nice to me, especially to religious books. I sometime love to
see a movie but not so . . . I really want to have a penpal who
is loving, caring, honest, and family-oriented person. I am a
marriage minded woman.''
ID # Y011--Eddy Mae; Age 14; Height: 52" (157 cm); Weight 98
lb. (45 kg); Children: none; Looking for a mate in age range 18
to 25; ``Currently, I'm a second year student of San Lorenzo
Ruiz Academy of Polomolok; . . . My hobbies are writing,
painting, and reading books. I love reading Valentine Romance
and any love story pocket books. I like watching TV Patrol and
Million Dollar Movies.''
ID # 1F12--Edrilyn; Age: 15, Height: 50" (152 cm); Weight 95
lb. (43 kg); Children: none; Looking for a mate in age range 20
to 30. ``I am working in my neighbor's house as a servant. At
the same time I am studying at public school--as a sophomore
student . . . I like playing (as I am a sportsminded), dancing,
reading, writing. I am fond of reading magazines, especially
Movie Star and Teen Star. I love to watch TV shows such as Bay
Watch and Power Rangers, which is interesting too. I am self-
Several of the marriage agencies offering women from Russia,
Ukraine and Moldova have underage girls listed as correspondents or
future wives. A marriage agency in Chisinau, Moldova had a 14 year old
girl; an agency located in Kherson, Ukraine had girls listed as being
15 and 16 years of age; another Ukrainian agency had contact addresses
for girls aged 10, 14, and 16. And an agency in Odessa, Ukraine had
contact information for several underage girls (aged 10, 12, 14 and 15)
and a boy (aged 15).
One marriage agent offering women and girls from the Philippines
complained on his Web site that the U.S. government will not allow his
youngest brides on offer, who are under age 16, into the country. ``The
service itself is not restricted by the American government, although
they are real picky about getting your bride into the states--they
won't give a visa to a bride under age sixteen.''
There are imagines and texts on marriage agency Web sites that have
raised my suspicions that paedophiles may seek a foreign wife with
children as a way to have sexual access to children. One Web site had
photographs of naked children from the Philippines. Although the images
were seemingly innocent--the pictures were of naked boys playing in a
fountain--when juxtaposed alongside mail order brides, they conveyed a
message that these children were available as well. Also, another
marriage agency allowed viewers to sort the available women by whether
or not they had children.
THE MARKETING OF EXTREMELY VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
There are a few marriage agencies that either specialize in or
include women or girls from especially vulnerable populations.
One marriage agency operates from inside a Russian government
social service agency that provides medial and social assistance to
``families with disabled children, single-parent families, large
families, and other vulnerable layers of the population.'' Services
they provide include ``psychological consulting both to children and
adults,'' and ``legal assistance to the women suffering domestic/
sexual/societal'' violence. The Web site appeared to be a typical
marriage agency, and claimed that its purpose was to provide
``assistance to the lonely people inside Russia and all over the world
in creating families though Internet.'' The descriptions of the women
do not say they have previously been abused, although there are a
number of women whose average age is higher than most marriage agency
There are also marriage agencies offering introduction services and
pornography of women with disabilities. One site from Russia markets
women with missing limbs. The services are marketed to men with
fetishes for missing limbs, amputated limbs or congenital
malformations. According to an amputee pornographer, ``The shorter the
stump is, the sexier an amputee.'' The photographs on the marriage
agency site range from modest to sexualized. The descriptions of the
women often include pledges of loyalty to a man who will take care of
them. On the same agency site are photographs of orphans with
disabilities. Viewers are urged to send gifts or adopt them.
Women and orphans with disabilities are extremely vulnerable. The
loss of social supports following the collapse of the Soviet Union has
severely worsened the circumstances for many. It would be wonderful to
think of ways that people could support these women and children, but
after viewing this site, one is left with a sick feeling for how they
may be exploited and abused by men who offer to marry or adopt them.
MARRIAGE AND SEX TOUR AGENCIES BANNED IN THE PHILIPPINES
In the 1990s, the government of the Philippines banned the
operation of marriage agencies and sex tour agencies. I don't know if
there have been any prosecutions, but this new law did cause American
operators of marriage agencies to move their agencies out of the
Philippines. One man who operated a marriage agency complained on this
Web site about this new law: ``The Philippines government is definitely
working against the interests of their own people. These girls want and
need to leave that country.'' Yet, he did not want to risk arrest under
the new law so he withdrew from the Philippines and moved his operation
to the United States. He continues his marriage agency business by
using his own Filipina wife to contact and recruit women and girls in
MARKETING MULTIPLE FORMS OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
Many of the marriage agencies are part of larger commercial
operations that offer a number of services, some of which are blatantly
connected to the sex industry or involve the sexual exploitation of
women. These multiple services include: the marriage agency, tours for
men to meet women, escort services (prostitution), modelling agencies,
production of pornography, and travel agencies. A number of the
marriage agency Web sites have links to pornographic Web sites and
I documented the involvement of one marriage agency in the
Philippines with sex tourism and prostitution:
At the top of the first page of the Web site is a picture of
a Filipina inviting the men to ``Come explore the Philippines
with me!'' The advertisement describes the Philippines as an
``exotic and interesting place to visit.'' Information is given
on tickets, lodging, food and water, money changing, nightlife
and the tour schedule. Prostitution is briefly mentioned as
being ``everywhere,'' and a price range for prostitutes is
listed. Men are told, ``You can partake or not, it's up to you.
Most do partake.'' Marriage is also briefly mentioned: ``As
most of you know, the Philippines is the happy hunting ground
for men seeking a wife. There are all kinds of women of every
description. It's hard to go to the Philippines and not get
caught up in the idea of marriage. The whole lifestyle seems to
revolve around love, marriage and kids.'' On the next linked
page the man is asked ``would you like to have a beautiful
female companion as a private tour guide?'' or ``would you like
to have introductions to `decent' marriage minded ladies?'' If
he chooses the private tour guide he is directed to the X-Rated
Escorted Tours. At the top of this page a picture of the same
Filipina from the introductory page appears, this time with her
breasts exposed. The woman invites the men to ``Come explore
the Philippines and Me!'' Much of the same travel information
is repeated, but here the man finds out how much it costs to
have an ``escort'' during his trip. The fee is paid to the
travel agent-pimp, not the woman. The agent suggests that the
sex tourist tip the woman. The viewer can also choose the
marriage option and he is then directed to the linked page on
Over Seas Ladies. There he is asked if he is tired of watching
TV and having women make him jump through hoops. He is told
that the women here ``respond to every gesture and kindness, no
matter how small.'' He is reassured that these women are not
concerned about his age, appearance, or wealth. Here the man is
presented with pages of pictures of women from which he can
choose. The agency sells the addresses of the women to the man.
For an extra fee the buyer can have a lifetime membership that
entitles him to the addresses of all the women, those currently
available and those in the future. (If the man is seeking a
permanent relationship, why he might want or need a lifetime
membership is not explained.) On the next linked page is
Escorted Wife Seeking Tours. The man is told: ``You will meet a
lot of beau4ful women there. Your penpals that you have been
writing to will be happy to see you. The new women you meet
will be generally `good' girls, but there are plenty of bar
girls there too and you will surely encounter some.''
Marriage agencies in Russia and Ukraine also have this type of
combination of services for sexual exploitation. In addition to selling
addresses of women for possible marriage, they offer to facilitate the
travel of men to meet women. These agencies offer escort services
(prostitution) along with the ``romance'' tours. Several agencies
advertise that men can come and photograph women in ``private nude
photo sessions of Russian models'' from their modeling agency. Another
agency offers to take ``nude'' and ``skin flick'' photographs and
videos of the women they are interested in meeting.
Several of the Russian agencies include nude photos of the women on
their Web site. Some of the agency sites seem to be fully integrated
into the sex industry. One example is a site that offers Russian
brides, escort services, and Russian pornography. There are links on
many of the agency Web sites that connect to typical sex industry
(prostitution and pornography) sites.
Some of the marriage agencies and introduction services appear to
operate as little more than prostitution tour agencies. The men often
expect to have sex with the women. One man admitted to a reporter:
``We're not here to get married.'' They use the marriage agency
``romance tours'' as sex or prostitution tourism.
MARRIAGE AGENCIES AND SEX TRAFFICKING
It is easy to document how marriage agencies are involved in many
forms of sexual exploitation and put vulnerable women and children at
risk. It is harder to prove involvement of these agencies in sex
trafficking as the crime is defined by law, which requires proof of
force, fraud, or coercion.
Workers in the St. Petersburg Psychological Crisis Center for Women
in Russia report that they have heard of women recruited by marriage
agencies being trafficked into the sex industry. In Russia and other
countries of the former Soviet Union, there have been so few
trafficking cases prosecuted that getting detailed information on how
the women were recruited is difficult. Although, information from non-
governmental organizations working in these countries indicates that
marriage agencies are involved in sex trafficking as well as other
forms of sexual exploitation.
Some of the marriage agencies operate tour agencies that facilitate
the travel and potential trafficking of women. In Chelyabinsk, Russia,
an NGO representative said that the traffickers operate in travel
agencies, with each agency specializing in one particular country where
women are sent. In St. Petersburg, an NGO representative said that
marriage agencies are well-organized business and ``well protected'' by
the political-business-criminal networks. As in Chelyabinsk, the same
people who own marriage agencies also own foreign travel and employment
agencies, some of which are known to be traffickers.
One multiple service Russian agency offers to send women to meet
men in other countries. If men don't want to travel to Russia, or don't
want the problem of getting a visa, the agency will arrange to send a
woman to another country to meet the man. It is easy to see how this
could be a front for trafficking and even a way to deceive the woman
into thinking she is going abroad to meet a particular man.
There are a number of aspects of these types of agencies that
indicate that they are likely to be involved. 1) They have recruited a
number of women who have indicated a desire to travel abroad or
emigrate; 2) The women are single and able to move, although some of
them may have children; 3) The women may have tried corresponding with
men, meeting Western men on tours sponsored by the agencies, and now be
more willing to go abroad if they agency makes them an offer; and 4)
the agencies have extensive personal information about the women and
their families that is often used to coerce women into prostitution
once they are abroad.
One can see how an agency offering a combination of services could
be involved in trafficking, especially those that essentially have a
data base of information on women who are single and expressed an
interest in going abroad. It is difficult to know how many of these
agencies are providing the services they claim of selling addresses,
and how many are involved in activities that meet the criminal
definition of trafficking in women.
quantitative research on marriage agencies in the former soviet union
A few years ago, I conducted a quantitative study on the
recruitment of women by marriage agencies in the countries of the
former Soviet Union. There is no known previous research that
quantifies and maps the numbers of women recruited by ``marriage
agencies.'' The goals of this research were to determine: 1) How many
Internet-based ``marriage agencies'' are operating in these countries?
2) How many women have been recruited by these agencies? 3) If there
are particular countries, regions, and oblasts \1\ from which women are
being recruited? 4) Are these the same countries, regions, and oblasts
from which women are known to be trafficked into sex industries? The
search found almost 500 marriage agency sites with women from former
Soviet republics. Two hundred and nineteen (219) of these Web sites
were indexed into a database. The 219 marriage agencies had a total of
119,649 women on their sites.
\1\ An oblast is an administrative division in countries of the
former Soviet Union, roughly equivalent to a province or state. Ukraine
is comprised of 24 oblasts and one autonomous republic. Belarus is
made-up of six ``voblasts,'' and the Russian Federation is made up of
49 oblasts, 21 republics, 10 autonomous okrugs, six krays, two federal
cities, and one autonomous oblast. For simplicity, this paper will
refer to administrative divisions as ``oblasts'' in the generic sense.
Although there are large differences in the size and populations of
these 15 countries, there are still noticeable differences in the
recruitment of women by marriage agencies in these countries. (See
Table 1 and Map 1) The countries with the largest numbers of women were
the Russian Federation with over 62,000 women, followed by Ukraine with
almost 32,000, and Belarus with almost 13,000. Countries with a few
thousand recruited women were: Kazakhstan (3,037), Kyrgyzstan (4,190),
Latvia (1,760), and Uzbekistan (1,139). The other countries had less
than 1,000 recruited women: Azerbaijan (204), Estonia (551), Lithuania
(626), Moldova (884), and a few countries had less than a couple of
dozen women, Armenia (23), Georgia (7), Tajikistan (8), and
In the Russian Federation, there were large differences in the
number of women recruited from each oblast. (See Table 2 and Map 2) The
oblasts of Russia with the highest number of recruited women are in the
western half of Russia, mostly in Europe (St. Petersburg, 15,694;
Volgograd, 4,897; Moscow, 3,642, and Yekateringburg, 2,003, which
straddles the European-Asian continental divide). Only ten oblasts had
more than 1,000 women. St. Petersburg, with by far the highest number--
almost 16,000--represented over three times the number of women
recruited compared to the next closest oblasts--Volgograd in
southwestern Russia with almost 4,900 and Moscow, the capital, with
over 3,600. Some of the oblasts of southwestern Siberia (Omsk, 731 and
Noosibirsk, 655) are the home of a moderate number of recruited women.
Fewer than 100 women were recruited from 41 of the oblasts. Fewer than
ten women were recruited from eleven of the oblasts (Dagestan, 8;
Khakassia, 7; Alania, 4; Karachay-Cherkessia, 4; Birobijan, 3; Chita 3;
Chukot, 2; Kalmykia 2; Yamalo-Nenets 2; Komi-Permyak, 1; and Tuva, 1).
There are considerable differences in population among the oblasts
in Russia. The size of the difference in the number of women
recruited--for example Moscow city oblast compared to oblasts in
central Siberia--may partially be a reflection of the population size
and density, but the numbers of recruited women are not always in
direct proportion to total population.
There were sizeable differences in the number of women recruited by
oblast in Ukraine also. (See Table 3 and Map 3.) In Ukraine, there are
a few distinct patterns for the recruitment of women by marriage
agencies. The Crimea, the southern most oblast in the Black Sea, has
the largest number of women recruited (5,515). Oblasts with large
cities, such as the capital Kyiv (3401), Odessa (3,225), and
Dnipropetrovsk (2,742) also have large numbers of women in the marriage
agencies. Generally, the oblasts with the lowest numbers of recruited
women are in the western Ukraine. Seven of the nine oblasts with less
than 50 recruited women were in western Ukraine (Zakarpats'ka, 46;
L'viv, 41; Khmelnysts'ka, 28; Volyns'ka, 24; Ternopil, 12; Ivano-
Frankivsk, 10; and Rivnens'ka, 2). There is a trend that the farther
east, towards Russia, you move, the more women are recruited by
marriage agencies. Also, the southern oblasts on the Black Sea have
fairly high numbers of women recruited from them.
In Ukraine, generally speaking, there are cultural differences
between western and eastern Ukraine. Western Ukraine is more
traditional and Ukrainian nationalist, while eastern Ukraine is more
identified with Russian culture. How this might influence the operation
and recruitment of women by marriage agencies resulting in increased
recruitment of women from more Russian-identified regions is a question
for further research.
Southern Ukraine has many popular resort areas. Interviews with 160
young women from Southern oblasts of Ukraine, where there was high
recruitment by marriage agencies, found that two-thirds of them wanted
to go abroad. Forty percent of them said they knew there was a risk of
being forced into prostitution, but they were sure that it would not
happen to them. In Yalta, a resort city, 97 percent of those surveyed
said they wanted to go abroad. A few--six percent--said they were so
eager to go abroad that they would agree to be in prostitution, even to
being ``sex slaves,'' in order to have a rich life (Hughes & Denisova
The mapping of the numbers and location of women recruited by
marriage agencies reveals some distinct patterns. Clearly, there is not
uniform recruitment of women across the 15 countries or within the
countries. Some of the variation may be explained by population size in
each of the areas, but the operation of recruiters for marriage
agencies also must play a role. Likely factors contributing to the
presence of recruiters are urban areas, especially tourist areas, where
people have more interaction and connections to Western Europe and the
U.S.--the markets for the women. This is an area that warrants further
This study was not able to link specific trafficking cases to
marriage agencies for two reasons: firstly, discovering all the details
of trafficking cases is difficult, and secondly, official record
keeping on cases of trafficking is poor or non-existent. For example,
trafficking of women was not a crime in the Russian Federation when
this research was done; consequently, there are no official cases. In
Ukraine, there has been a law against trafficking since 1998, but
relatively few traffickers have been convicted. However, NGOs in
countries of origin and destination report knowing that women are
trafficked through marriage agencies.
In countries where recruitment of women by marriage agencies is
popular, the general public does not understand the risk of signing up
with these agencies. A NGO worker in St. Petersburg said that her
mother was urging her to sign up. She said her mother said, ``Why waste
your time with that work. Why not correspond with a Western man and
find a better life?'' She said she knew of cases in which women are
afraid to go to the agencies alone, so mothers accompany their
daughters to sign them up.
There is an abundance of evidence that marriage agencies are
involved in activities that result in the sexual exploitation of women
and children. It is harder to make links between specific marriage
agencies and sex trafficking as defmed by law. There are many anecdotal
reports from NGOs about the involvement of marriage agencies in the sex
trafficking of women, but more investigations and collection of
evidence into official cases are needed to firmly document their
TABLE 1--WOMEN RECRUITED BY MARRIAGE AGENCIES FROM COUNTRIES OF THE
FORMER SOVIET UNION
Russian Federation 62,605
TABLE 2--WOMEN RECRUITED BY MARRIAGE AGENCIES IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Adygea 18 ................... Moscow 3642
Alania 4 ................... Murmansk 43
Altai 73 ................... Nizhniy Novgorod 178
Amur 25 ................... Novgorod 502
Arkhangelsk 253 ................... Novosibirsk 655
Astrakhan' 429 ................... Omsk 731
Bashkortostan 440 ................... Orel Oblast 72
Belgorod 86 ................... Orenburg 96
Birobijan 3 ................... Penza 311
Bryansk 69 ................... Mordovia 14
Buryatia 15 ................... Perm 221
Chelyabinsk 474 ................... Primorskiy 645
Chita 3 ................... Pskov 55
Chukot 2 ................... Rostov 1044
Chuvashia 154 ................... Ryazan' 282
Dagestan 8 ................... Sakhalin 178
lrkutsk 133 ................... Samara 1510
Ivanovo 32 ................... Saratov 2344
Kabardino-Balkaria 22 ................... Smolensk 23
Kaliningrad 295 ................... St. Petersburg 15694
Kalmykia 2 ................... Stavropol 365
Kaluga 72 ................... Tambov 111
Kamchatka 27 ................... Tatarstan 2165
Karachay-Cherkessia 4 ................... Taymyr 31
Karelia 49 ................... Tomsk 235
Kemerovo 173 ................... Tula 43
Khabarovsk 313 ................... Tuva 1
Khakassia 7 ................... Tver 1373
Khanty-Mansi 41 ................... Tyumen 159
Kirov 26 ................... Udmurtia 317
Komi 203 ................... Ul'yanovsk 280
Komi-Permyak 1 ................... Vladimir 58
Kostroma 10 ................... Volgograd 4897
Krasnodar 834 ................... Vologda 60
Krasnoyarsk 175 ................... Voronezh 121
Kurgan 82 ................... Yakutia 21
Kursk 27 ................... Yamalo-Nenets 2
Lipetsk 82 ................... Yaroslavl 64
Magadan 22 ................... Yekateringburg 2003
Mari-El 1869 ................... Not Known 14967
................... ................... Total 62605
TABLE 3--WOMEN RECRUITED BY MARRIAGE AGENCIES IN UKRAINE, BY OBLAST
Cherkas'ka 149 ................... Mykolayiv 533
Chernivhivs'ka 35 ................... Odessa 3225
Chernivitsi 268 ................... Poltava 368
Dnipropetrovsk 2742 ................... Respublika Krym 551
Donetsk 1055 ................... Rivnens'ka 2
Ivano-Frankivsk 10 ................... Sums'ka 1994
Kharkivs'ka 1188 ................... Ternopil' 12
Khersons'ka 1053 ................... Vinnytsya 440
Khmelnyts'ka 28 ................... Volyns'ka 24
Kiev 3401 ................... Zakarpats'ka 46
Kirovohrads'ka 10 ................... Zaporizhzhya 539
Luhans'ka 281 ................... Zhytomyr 125
L'viv 41 ................... Unknown 8753
................... ................... Total 31837
Hughes, Donna M. ``Supplying Women for the Sex Industry: Trafficking
from the Russian Federation,'' in Sexualities in Post-
Communism, Aleksandar Stulhofer (Editor) Haworth Press
Hughes, Donna M. 2004. ``The Role of `Marriage Agencies' in the Sexual
Exploitation of Women from the Former Soviet Union,''
International Review of Victimology, Vol. 11, pp. 49-71.
Hughes, Donna M. 2003. The Impact of the Use of New Communications and
Information Technologies on the Trafficking of Women: A Study
of the Users, The Group of Specialists on the Impact of the Use
of New Information Technologies on Trafficking in Human Beings
for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation, Committee for Equality
between Women and Men, Council of Europe. http://www.uri.edu/
``Marriage agencies and images,'' Nov 2001
Hughes, Donna M. 2002. ``Use of New Information and Communication
Technologies for Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children,''
Hastings Women's Law Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 129-148.
Hughes, Donna M. July 2002. Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: The
Case of the Russian Federation, IOM Migration Research Series,
International Organization for Migration, No. 7, 68 pages.
Hughes, Donna M. and Tatyana A. Denisova, ``The Transnational Political
Criminal Nexus of Trafficking of Women in Ukraine,'' Trends in
Organized Crime Vol. 6, No. 3-4: Spr.-Sum. 2001 (Printing date
March 2003) http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/tpcnexus.pdf
Hughes, Donna M. 1999. Pimps and Predators on the Internet--Globalizing
the Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children. Kingston, Rhode
Island: The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, 80 pages.
ISBN 0-9670857-1-3 http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/
Senator Brownback. Thank you very much.
Do you know what is an average price for brokering? Have
you been able to track that?
Dr. Hughes. Well, they usually charge anywhere from $10 to
$15 per address or sometimes they will say, but then you can
have 15 addresses for $100. Sometimes they have deals of
lifetime memberships, although what you would need a lifetime
membership for, if you are supposedly seeking a wife, I am not
sure. Of course, then they offer tours for the men to go on to
meet the women, either the ones they have been corresponding
with or women they have never met before, and those can be the
price of an airline ticket plus the hotels plus whatever profit
they are able to put on top of it. So I think it is important
to understand that a lot of these agencies are making money any
way they can, whether it is selling addresses, providing women
for prostitution, maybe trafficking the women abroad, even
making money doing things like delivering flowers for the man
and making a profit on top of that.
Senator Brownback. And what do the women get out of this or
Dr. Hughes. They usually are not charged anything.
Senator Brownback. So they are offering themselves and
putting themselves in harm's way.
Dr. Hughes. Right, in the hope of meeting Mr. Right.
Senator Brownback. Ms. Jackson.
STATEMENT OF SUZANNE H. JACKSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF
CLINICAL LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL
Ms. Jackson. Thank you Senator Brownback, Senator Cantwell,
and to the rest of the committee for the opportunity to testify
Before becoming a law professor, I worked as an attorney
here in the District of Columbia representing immigrants and
refugees seeking to escape abusive relationships. Most of my
clients did not speak much English and had to overcome many
obstacles before they could escape domestic violence. Two of my
clients had met their husbands through mail order bride
companies, and it is because of the particular hardships that
they endured that I began researching this issue when I entered
academia. The legal landscape facing women in this situation
has changed dramatically since those days, in no small part due
to the excellent work of this committee in the hearings upon
and shaping of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
The IMOs, or international matchmaking organizations, have
been linked to criminal trafficking in several ways. They can
be nothing more than fronts for criminal trafficking
organizations in which adults and girls are offered to the
public as brides, but sold privately into prostitution or
forced marriage--including marriages to men who prostitute
them--or held in domestic slavery. Global Survival Network
found that most mail order bride agencies in Russia have
expanded their activities to include trafficking for
prostitution. European embassies have reported that a number of
matchmaking agencies conceal organized prostitution rings
victimizing newly arrived Filipina women. Asian groups have
used fiancee visas and marriage with a so-called jockey, which
is an escort bringing women across the U.S. border, to bring
women into the United States for purposes of prostitution. And
jockeys have even included U.S. military personnel stationed
IMOs' practices exacerbate problems with false
expectations, requiring women to complete long questionnaires
with very intrusive and detailed personal questions,
encouraging disclosure by implying or stating that false
answers could lead to cancellation of any ensuing immigration
benefits. Women are also subjected to medical and background
checks and may assume that participating men are evaluated with
the same level of scrutiny. Women from other countries often
assume that all governmental agencies in the United States, a
country with extraordinary resources and technology, have
access to information held by other agencies, that facts
asserted in applications for immigration benefits would be
checked, and that a man who had been convicted of serious
violent crimes would not be permitted to bring a spouse or
fiancee into the U.S. from abroad. The industry does nothing,
however, to screen male customers, no detailed questionnaire,
no check for a criminal record or abuse, no formal inquiry as
to whether men are already married. Until recently, the U.S.
Government did not conduct these inquiries either.
An IMO can also be a useful tool of and a collaborator with
individual men who seek to exploit women whom they import to
the United States. U.S. citizens can use isolation, domination,
and threats of deportation to get an immigrant woman to perform
domestic and sexual services on demand. One commentator in an
Internet discussion of the pros and cons of paying for a mail
order bride pointed out that it can be much less expensive to
purchase a wife than to pay for prostitution services which do
not typically include free housekeeping and cooking.
Men have also used imprisonment and vicious violence to
sexually exploit and prostitute young women. One Honduran woman
was kept a prisoner, together with the U.S. citizen's wife, in
a man's home by bars on the windows. Another was kept in the
house on an ankle chain. One 17-year-old from the Philippines
was abused, sexually exploited, and then pimped into
The CIA found that the mail order bride brokers are not
traffickers per se, but when there is deception or fraudulent
nondisclosure of known facts concerning the nature of the
relationship being entered into or the criminal or abusive
background of the client--that is the male client--the broker
should be liable as traffickers. Individuals using IMOs to find
women whom they prostitute to others or who they use as their
own personal prostitutes or domestic servants should be
criminally liable as traffickers on the same theory. Knowing
deception or fraud used intentionally to persuade a woman or
girl to travel to the United States and perhaps even to marry,
in order to mistreat and exploit her for personal profit or
gain, is no less criminal trafficking in persons when
accomplished by an individual instead of an organization.
Although the Department of Justice is enforcing criminal laws
against international travel for purposes of having sex with a
child, not one sex trafficking case has been brought against an
individual who has used a mail order bride agency to obtain and
sexually exploit a vulnerable immigrant woman. It could be that
the case that you mentioned at the beginning would have been an
exception to that had the man not committed suicide.
Commercial sex is defined in the Trafficking Victims
Protection act as any sex act on account of which anything of
value is given or received by any person. When an IMO sells a
young woman for sexual purposes, as in a Web page openly
offering sex with 15- to 17-year-old Thai girls boasting that a
girl could be delivered anywhere in the world, charging extra
to deliver a virgin, and also offering that if the customer
paid $4,000 more, then she is like your slave forever, this is
clearly commercial sex trafficking. But when a citizen
Senator Brownback. Excuse me. Let me just stop you there.
What are the prices that they are putting there in that section
you were talking about?
Ms. Jackson. It is $4,000 for delivery of a young, underage
girl for sexual purposes, and for an additional $4,000, she is
your slave forever.
Senator Brownback. So $8,000 for a slave, female sex slave
Ms. Jackson. That is right. And that is less than it takes
for an individual to go and get a mail order bride--that is
more actually. That is about double what it takes for an
individual to go and get a mail order bride from any other
country to bring her into the United States, even including the
fees to the trafficking organizations.
When a citizen threatens to revoke an application for a
green card unless an immigrant submits to sex, the valuable
consideration of legal residency in the U.S. fulfills both the
commercial sex requirement and the coercion requirement of the
criminal sex trafficking statute.
I have one last point to make.
Senator Brownback. Please go ahead.
Ms. Jackson. During the 1970s and 1980s, an average of
5,300 fiancee petitions were filed each year, about 1,100 of
which did not result in an adjustment of status to permanent
residents. So these are people who got in as fiancees who were
not made wives. During the 1990s, the number of fiancee
petitions rose to 6,400 a year, while the number of adjustments
remained the same. So the missing or rejected fiancees between
the 1970s and the 1980s, and the 1990s, doubled. There was no
increase in the number of people who were adjusted to permanent
residents. The INS in a report acknowledged that foreign
traffickers are attracted to the United States because of the
ability to get fiancee visas, but in that report they never
connected the doubling of the number of fiancee visas and the
failure to turn those into spouses as evidence itself of sex
trafficking in women.
The proposals that have been made to improve the situation
regarding matchmaking organizations are excellent and should
place minimal burdens on individuals and the companies. But if
regulations are not in place to ensure that Congress'
enactments have the force of law, the study that is proposed by
Senator Cantwell and other reforms contemplated will be
meaningless. In the June 23, 2004 Federal Register, the notice
of proposed rulemaking for a law passed in 1996 to require IMOs
to give mail order brides information about their rights in the
United States will not be issued until sometime in December of
this year. That is 8 years since the final comment period ended
on that regulation. Even though there have been regulations
passed to control the IMO industry, they are not being
enforced. They have not been implemented by the executive, and
without that, the laws themselves might as well not have been
I thank you for the committee's efforts to combat
trafficking and abuses of the international matchmaking
industry and for your consideration of my testimony.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jackson follows:]
Prepared Statement of Suzanne H. Jackson
Thank you to Senator Brownback and to the rest of the Committee for
the opportunity to testify today. My name is Suzanne Jackson, and I am
an Associate Professor of Clinical Law at George Washington Law School.
Before becoming a law professor, I worked as an attorney here in the
District of Columbia, representing immigrants and refugees seeking to
escape abusive relationships. Most of my clients did not speak much
English, and had to overcome many obstacles before they could be free
of the threat of domestic violence. Two of my clients had met their
husbands through ``mail-order bride'' companies, and it is because of
the particular hardships they endured within the legal system that I
began to research the relationship between the ``mail-order bride''
industry and trafficking in women. The legal landscape has, on the
whole, improved significantly since those days, thanks in great part to
the work of this Committee in conducting hearings on and shaping the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
I will refer to the companies as international matchmaking
organizations or IMOs rather than ``mail-order bride'' agencies, even
though the term IMO inaccurately conveys gender neutrality and a
``match'' or some level of equality between the parties. Nothing could
be further from the truth: IMOs exist for the benefit of their paying
customers: men \1\ from wealthy nations, including the United States,
Japan and Germany, who want access to women who, most often, have
neither economic nor social power. Marketing strategies used by IMOs
advertise women as generic to their ethnicity--all Russian women are X,
all Asian women are Y, all Latinas are Z--and emphasize that the women
they offer (women who are in fact hoping to leave their home countries)
will all be ``home-oriented'' and ``traditional'' wives. Some companies
guarantee women's availability, others guarantee marriage within a year
of subscribing to their service, one even allows a man to remove a
woman from the Web site to prevent competition during a courtship:
``Select One, She's Yours,'' promises this company.\2\
IMOs have been linked to criminal trafficking in several ways. They
can be nothing more than fronts for criminal trafficking organizations,
in which adults and girls are offered to the public as brides but sold
privately into prostitution, forced into marriage (including marriages
to men who then prostitute them),\3\ or held in domestic slavery.
Police in the United Kingdom found organized criminal gangs from
Russia, the former Soviet Union and the Balkans using the Internet to
advertise women for sale to brothels in Western Europe and also to men
as ``Internet brides.'' \4\ A study by Global Survival Network (GSN)
found that most mail-order bride agencies in Russia have expanded their
activities to include trafficking for prostitution. European embassies
have reported that a number of matchmaking agencies conceal organized
prostitution rings victimizing newly-arrived Filipina women. Asian
groups have used fiancee visas and marriage with a so-called ``jockey''
(an escort bringing women across the U.S. border) to bring women into
the U.S. for purposes of prostitution;\5\ jockeys have even included
U.S. military personnel posted abroad.
IMOs are almost completely unregulated, advertise minors for
marriage, and fail to screen their male clients for criminal histories.
with false expectations: they require women to complete long
questionnaires asking intrusive personal questions, encouraging
disclosure by implying or stating that false answers could lead to
cancellation of any ensuing immigration benefits. Women are also
subjected to medical and background checks, and may assume that
participating men are evaluated with the same level of scrutiny. Women
from other countries often assume that all governmental agencies in the
United States--a country with extraordinary resources and technology--
have access to information held by other agencies, that facts asserted
in applications for immigration benefits would be checked, and that a
man who had been convicted of serious violent crimes would not be
permitted to bring a spouse or fiancee into the U.S. from abroad. The
industry does nothing, however, to screen male customers: no detailed
questionnaire, no check for a criminal record for spousal or child
abuse, no formal inquiry as to whether men are already married. Until
recently, the U.S. government also did not conduct these inquiries.
An IMO can also be a useful tool of, and sometimes a knowing
collaborator with, an individual man who wishes to obtain control over
a woman in order to exploit her. A U.S. citizen can use isolation,
domination, and threats of deportation to get an immigrant woman to
perform domestic and sexual services on demand. One commentator in an
Internet discussion of the pros and cons of paying for a ``mail-order''
bride, pointed out that it can be much less expensive to purchase a
wife than to pay for prostitution services, which don't also include
free housekeeping and cooking. Men have also used imprisonment and
vicious violence to sexually exploit and prostitute young women. One
Honduran woman was kept a prisoner--together with the U.S. citizen's
wife--in a man's home by bars on the windows; another was kept in the
house on an ankle chain; one 17-year old from the Phillipines was
abused, sexually exploited, and then pimped into prostitution.\6\
Because of these practices, the CIA found that ``[m]ail order bride
brokers . . . are not traffickers per se; but, where there is deception
or fraudulent non-disclosure of known facts concerning the nature of
the relationship being entered into or the criminal or abusive
background of the client, the brokers should be liable as
traffickers.''\7\ Individuals using IMOs to find women whom they
prostitute to others or use as their own ``personal prostitutes'' \8\
or domestic servants should be criminally liable as traffickers on the
same theory. Knowing deception--fraud--used intentionally to cause a
woman or girl to travel to the U.S. and perhaps even to marry, in order
to mistreat and exploit her for personal profit or gain, is no less
criminal trafficking in persons when accomplished by an individual
instead of an organization. Although the Department of Justice is
enforcing the criminal laws against international travel for purposes
of having sex with a child, not one sex trafficking case has been
brought against an individual who has used a mail-order bride
organization to obtain and sexually exploit a vulnerable immigrant
Abusive IMO-arranged marriages should be evaluated for evidence of
criminal trafficking. Consider the following examples:
A U.S. citizen puts new locks on the outside of his doors,
and installs a security system with keyed window locks. He
searches the Internet for the youngest possible girls available
on mail-order bride Web sites. He pays a company's $4,500 fee,
travels abroad, proposes marriage to a young woman, and brings
his prospective wife to the U.S. with a fiancee visa. When they
arrive at his home, he takes her down to the basement and
terrorizes her, keeping her locked there for weeks. When he
believes that she is too afraid to try to escape, he allows her
out of the basement but not out of the house, forcing her to do
housework and have sex with him on demand.
A U.S. citizen lives in a remote, rural area, and
accomplishes the above with repeated physical and sexual abuse,
but without need for locks, as the nearest house is thirty
Add to the facts in both scenarios above that the citizen
forces a woman to have sex with other men who pay him for the
Add to the facts in any scenario that instead of using a
fiancee visa to ``secure a woman's entry into the U.S., the man
marries her abroad and brings her to the U.S. as his wife.
These scenarios, distilled from actual cases,\10\ all fulfill the
elements of the federal crime of forced labor: domestic labor or sexual
services intentionally obtained by the use of physical restraint and
threats of serious harm. They should also satisfy the elements of
criminal sex trafficking, if the required element of ``commercial sex
act'' is interpreted on the basis of the statutory language rather than
a myopic intepretation focusing exclusively on brothel-based
prostitution or monetary transactions.
Commercial sex is defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act
as ``any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or
received by any person.'' When an with fifteen- to seventeen-year old
Thai girls, boasting that a girl could be delivered ``anywhere in the
world,'' charging extra to deliver a virgin, and also offered girls for
sale outright--pay $4,000 more, the company promised, ``and then she is
like your slave forever.'' \11\--this is clearly commercial sex
trafficking. If both parties to the sale know that the person will be
forced or coerced to have sex, both are sex traffickers. The formality
of a marriage or a supposed engagement to marry should not blind us to
the federal crimes of sex trafficking, forced labor and involuntary
servitude: when a citizen threatens to revoke an application for a
green card unless an immigrant submits to sex, the valuable
consideration of legal residency in the United States fulfills both the
``commercial sex'' requirement and the coercion requirement of the
criminal sex trafficking statute. The same applies in the context of
sexual exploitation of domestic workers, migrant workers, sweatshop
workers, or any instance where sex is coerced or forced through threats
of deportation, so that a person is led to believe that on account of
the sex act, the person will receive respite from threats of
deportation.\12\ The criminal penalties for sex trafficking should be
brought to bear against individuals who use IMOs to extort sex and
domestic services from individual brought into the U.S. through fiancee
visas or through marriage.
IMOs also camouflage trafficking indirectly by inflating the number
of visa applicants, which reduces governmental resources to evaluate
individuals' requests for fiancee visas. Until recently, U.S.
immigration authorities conducted no investigation of applicants for
fiancee or spousal visas, not requiring any background criminal check,
not asking whether the petitioner is legally able to marry, not even
checking its own records to see if an applicant previously petitioned
for another person. During the 1970s and 1980s, an average of 5,300
fiancee petitions were filed each year, about 1,100 of which did not
result in an adjustment to permanent resident status. During the 1990s,
however, the number of fiancee petitions rose to 6,400 per year while
adjustments remained the same. The number of missing or rejected
fiancees had apparently doubled in a decade, averaging about 2,200 a
year. A report by the INS noted that traffickers were interested in
sending women to the U.S. because fiancee visas were easy to obtain,
but did not observe that the rise in ``missing'' or rejected fiancees
was itself evidence of trafficking.\13\ Since the tragedy of September
11th, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has increased
scrutiny of all petitioners and beneficiaries of petitions for
immigration benefits, including petitions for fiancee visas and
marriage-based adjustment, and although implementation of these changes
is only just beginning, they have reportedly already found much of
interest as a result of these investigations.
Senator Cantwell has made several excellent proposals to change the
process for obtaining a fiancee visa, which if enacted and implemented
would place minimal burdens on the IMOs and on the participants in the
process, while likely preventing some serious abuses of the system. But
even enacting such a law will accomplish nothing if Congress is not
prepared to ensure that the laws are implemented by the Executive
Branch. This is not the first piece of legislation recognizing and
attempting to address problems in the U.S. that Congress in 1996
ordered IMOs to provide information to their ``recruits'' on their
rights under U.S. laws. Eight years later, this law is still not
implemented or enforced.\14\ The comment period for the proposed
regulation expired in 1997, yet the June 23, 2004 Federal Register
announced that the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will not be issued
until sometime in December of this year. Senator Cantwell's legislation
asks the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to complete a
study of the industry and the extent of its compliance with the new
requirements within two years of the legislation's enactment, but if
the regulations are not in place to ensure that Congress' enactments
have the force of law, this study and the other reforms contemplated,
will be meaningless.
Thank you for the Committee's efforts to combat trafficking and
abuses of the international matchmaking industry, for the invitation to
appear before you today, and for your consideration of my testimony.
\1\ In three years of research I identified only two Web sites
purporting to offer ``mail-order husbands,'' one of which was defunct,
and the other a satire. Although one or two sites listed at Mail Order
Bride Warehouse (www.goodwife.com) had listings for both men and women,
over 350 sites (in 2002) provided only listings of women for review by
\2\ The Mail Order Bride Latin Page, at http://www.goodwife.com/
latin (last visited Aug. 15, 2002).
\3\ In a recent study of trafficked women in the U.S., experts
interviewed forty trafficked women, finding that ``[h]usbands and
boyfriends acted as pimps for some of the international (20%) and U.S.
(28%) women. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, ``Sex
Trafficking,'' at 10. One of these women had been sold into marnage.
\4\ Miller, Sex Gangs Sell Prostitutes over the Internet, The
Guardian (U.K.), July 16, 2000, at 13.
\5\ Amy O'Neill Richard, Center for the Study of Intelligence,
International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary
Manifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime (Nov. 1999), at 8.
\6\ See Suzanne H. Jackson, To Honor and Obey: Trafficking in
``Mail-order Brides,'' 70 George Wash. L. Rev. 475, at notes 560-563
\7\ Amy O'Neill Richard, ``International Trafficking in Women to
the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and
Organized Crime,'' Center for the Study of Intelligence, November,
1999, citing Ali Miller and Alison Stewart, ``Report from the
Roundtable on the Meaning of Trafficking in Persons: A Human Rights
Perspective,'' Women's Rights Law Reporter, Rugtgers Law School Fall/
Winter 1998. The INS agreed. ``International Matchmaking Organizations:
A Report to Congress,'' at 17-18 (March, 1999).
\8\ The phrase ``personal prostitute'' was used by a reporter to
describe a fifteen-year old Costa Rican boy brought into Florida for
sex by a much older man, Marvin Hersh. The case against Mr. Hersh is
described in my article cited above, text accompanying notes 617-632.
\9\ Conversation with Professor Mohammed Mattar, Protection
Project, Johns Hopkins University, July 12, 2004. Professor Mattar has
reviewed the cases brought by the Department of Justice under the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
\10\ Jackson, To Honor and Obey, supra note 6, at notes 560-563.
\11\ Stuart Miller, Sex Gangs Sell Prostitutes over the Internet,
The Guardian (U.K.), July 16, 2000, at 13.
\12\ The requirement that some action occur in interstate commerce
will limit this provision to instances when an intent to extort sex
existed before the person is brought to the U.S., or whe course of
conduct extends across state lines. This stops the definition of sex
trafficking from encompassing all IMO-arranged relationships,
regardless of the parties' intent.
\13\ ``International Matchmaking Organizations: A Report to
Congress,'' at 10 (March, 1999). Some level of oversight has been
exercised, however, as one IMO agent complained: ``The [IMO] service
itself is not restricted by the American government, although they are
real picky about getting your bride into the states--they won't give a
visa to a bride under age sixteen.'' Donna M. Hughes, ``Pimps and
Predators on the Internet: Globalizing the Sexual Exploitation of Women
and Children,'' Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, March 1999,
citing ``Be a Mail Order Husband (For Men Only),'' World Class Service,
1996, available at http://www.filipina.com/FAQ.html.
\14\ See, e.g., ``Kohl Urges I.N.S. to Crack Down on `Mail-Order
Bride' Industry,'' Press Release, Senator Herb Kohl, February 9, 2001.
``The INS has ignored the law. It has been dragging its feet. By not
doing its job, it has allowed the mail-order bride industry to flourish
unchecked and rife with abuse. Meanwhile, more women walk blindly into
these marriages with little or no information about their rights. The
rules are in place. All the INS has to do is enforce them to prevent
another senseless tragedy.'' Id.
Senator Brownback. Thank you.
Is this is a largely or completely unregulated industry,
the international matchmaking organizations?
Ms. Jackson. The only regulation that exists has not yet
been implemented by the United States.
Senator Brownback. That one that you were citing to is the
only one that you know of. Is that true of most countries or
are we behind in the industrialized countries, or are we ahead
and nobody is really looking at this?
Ms. Jackson. It is true of most countries, but we are
behind most industrialized countries, particularly the EU, and
I would defer to Professors Hughes and perhaps Clark in terms
of the most up-to-date information about other countries'
efforts in thess areas, but I think that these industries are
more severely regulated and recognized as different forms of
trafficking in other countries.
Senator Brownback. That is going to lead to my next
question, which maybe you could combine with this one. What
have other governments done on this topic that we should learn
from and try to address?
Ms. Clark. None that I have been able to find. We do note
that the Council of Europe has recently pointed to the lack of
regulation of the industry and, in its April 2004 report on
domestic slavery, is calling for further recommendations. But
we have yet to see it. I was in Norway in April and heard about
a story of a Norwegian man in the north who was just about to
get his 13th mail order bride from Russia, and there was no law
that could prevent this from happening. He would bring the
women in. He would stay married to them until almost the end of
their trial period, until just weeks before they would
automatically obtain residency, divorce them--occasionally they
already had children--and then file for his next mail order
bride. There was nothing in the existing regulation to prevent
him from going for bride number 20.
Dr. Hughes. As I said in my testimony, the Philippines does
have a law against the operation of mail order bride agencies.
There was sort of a coinciding of events. During the 1980s,
almost all mail order brides came from Southeast Asia,
particularly from the Philippines and Thailand. The Philippines
passed a law against the operation of these agencies which
caused the Americans that were onsite in the Philippines to
come back to the United States with their computers and then
have to send recruiters in. But also, there was then the
collapse of the Soviet Union that opened up the borders, and a
lot of the marriage brokers then moved to eastern Europe. And
now you will find that the vast majority of women offered in
these sites are from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
One of the things I will mention in the research that I did
on mail order bride agencies in the former Soviet Union, we
indexed 219 agencies and found 120,000 women in those 219
Senator Brownback. How many women?
Dr. Hughes. It is 119,649, just under 120,000 women on over
200 marriage sites.
Senator Brownback. Dr. Hughes, go into more detail about
the nature of these tours. I do not know what they call them,
engagement tours or whatever.
Dr. Hughes. They call them romance tours, but I think they
are really often little more than sex tours because I have read
a number of accounts in which the men talk about how they go on
one of these tours a couple times a year. So it really is a sex
tour. The women on the other end may think these men are coming
to meet them and possibly marry them, but the men, in effect,
are really just going there to have sex and have a good time
for a week or so, and then they come back.
Senator Brownback. Where are these tours generally to? What
is the price? How are they advertised?
Dr. Hughes. I have seen a number of them to Kiev, St.
Petersburg, Moscow. They are the popular destinations in the
former Soviet Union. I have also seen them to Manila and to
Costa Rica. So almost anywhere there is a significant operation
of either sex tours and the combination of these mail order
bride agencies, they will run what are called these romance
I think what is really interesting is you look at how often
these agencies are combination agencies, everything from the
marriage agencies, sex tour agents, running prostitution rings,
travel agencies, tour agencies, and they produce pornography,
and all of that sort of comes together. I think that they then
use the women any way that they can.
Senator Brownback. So this is just a criminal conglomerate.
Dr. Hughes. I think so.
Senator Brownback. It is what it is, and they use marriage
as some sort of legitimacy front to a multifaceted sex industry
Dr. Hughes. Yes, I think so. I think especially when you
realize that by running a mail order bride agency, if you put
all the ads in the newspapers, you suddenly have several
hundred women from the community that have signed up. And now
you know where there are 200 women from that community that
have expressed an interest in going abroad. I could see how it
would work that the trafficker says, OK, you can correspond
with an American man or a while and a couple months go by and
nothing has really happened. Then he can say, you know, I heard
there is this really good job abroad working as a waitress in a
restaurant. It is a really high class restaurant. I am sure you
would meet a man right away if you went there, and we can help
find you a husband that way. But, of course, when she reaches
the destination, she is forced into prostitution.
Ms. Clark. There are events where they have invited women
to meet men on these tours, and they are simultaneously
soliciting the women for jobs abroad. That has been noted
particularly in Russia.
Also in Australia I believe there is a law that assisted
the government to prosecute a man who brought over his seventh
mail order bride. But I think that current criminal laws
against immigration fraud could be used in that way because
those petitions are not made in good faith.
Ms. Clark. We agree that the mail order bride industry is
becoming an increasingly large cover for forms of sex tourism,
and I would agree with Dr. Hughes. In our research on brides of
Central Asia, we have seen this where men would post
testimonies of how they had had vacations. On their summer
vacations, they would go and visit the homes of six or eight
women. Frequently the families would go all out to welcome the
men into their homes because this was potentially a way for the
woman to leave and maybe even for her whole family. The man
would return to the United States, post a notice on the Web
site saying this was a lovely trip, I enjoyed meeting
everybody, I did not find my soul mate, but I will be back
again next year. The NGOs in Kyrgystan would then tell us that
in fact these women were multiply used by the men who would
come through because they felt again reduced to a commodity and
that the men felt it was their right to try out what perhaps
they might purchase.
So in discussions, I think that as we examine the types of
prevention campaigns that we are continuing to fund in
countries of origin, these types of practices need to be made
more explicit, in that the idea of responding to an ad for
marriage is not necessarily the dream that it might appear to
Senator Brownback. So this is one of the next great fronts
in the modern-day slavery debate and practices we are seeing?
Ms. Clark. I would say so. I would say in general the use
of the Internet needs to be studied with much greater
dedication to see exactly how it is being used. The abuse of
the mail order bride industry is something that we are
documenting today, but with the rise of an online community, we
are starting to see in an American suburb outside of the town
of Peoria that a man can plug in: Peoria, the ZIP code, young
girls 14 to 18, and get 900 profiles of young girls who are
talking about the things that they love, their wants, their
desires, their dreams.
Many of us in the room are familiar with the case of
Lindsey Lavoy, a young woman who met someone through an online
community chat room in Miami in August 2000 I believe, who
introduced himself as a 15-year-old who, just like her, loved
poetry. A few months later he revealed, one, that he loved her
but, by the way, he was 35. The end of the tragic story is that
she was convinced to leave with him, was taken to Greece, and
was put into the pornographic film industry there.
So these online communities, in ways very similar to the
mail order bride industry, are now being increasingly used as
potential recruitment stations and auction blocks. This is
something that is not regulated, but deserves very focused
attention as part of the overall war against trafficking,
Senator Brownback. Ms. Jackson, you talked about jockeys
getting married many times. I believe that was in your
Ms. Jackson. It was not that they were getting married many
times, but I think the specifics of the incident that I was
describing were servicemen in Korea were being paid between
$30,000 and $40,000 to marry a Korean woman, bring her to the
United States, remain with her for the 2 years needed to get
her permanent residence here, and then divorce her. The
understanding was that there would be severe sanctions to pay
for the man if he laid a finger on the woman because they
wanted to keep her safe for an eventual true marriage, but the
money was too difficult to resist for these young men.
Senator Brownback. Dr. Hughes, that is the strangest thing
you were talking about, about missing body parts and people's
fetishes. These are actually Internet sites?
Dr. Hughes. A couple of years ago, the Council of Europe
commissioned me to do research on how the Internet is being
used to traffic women, and this was actually some of the work
that I did. I got into some very dark sides of the Internet.
This was one particular site that I found, which was a
combination of a sort of pornography site and a marriage agency
in which they were essentially recruiting women throughout
Russia that had disabilities because there are men who are
known to have sexual fetishes for women with disabilities. They
were actually marketing these women. The women pathetically
would have pledges on the site for anyone who would be willing
to take care of them. They would promise to be loyal to them
and so forth.
Senator Brownback. That is just unbelievable. I have seen a
lot of terrible things, evil things in the world, but that is
I hope you have all put in your written testimony specific
items of what you think we should be doing, either amending
current trafficking laws or the Cantwell proposal that she has
put forward. It strikes me that this is the logical place we
would probably be at this point in time in the trafficking that
was begun several years back. We have finally recognized it and
then moved on laws against it, and then you would see probably
other groups then morph into a different way or to get more
sophisticated about what they were doing and still trying to
address a potential market, a substantial market. So it seems
to me that we have to be then moving with how the industry is
moving to address it and to address it as carefully as we can
and as well as we can and allowing legitimate groups to
operate, but illegitimate ones to really suffer the
I hope also we can start to put on notice vulnerable female
populations in other countries and people here of right and
wrong and things that they should be watching out for.
I hope each of you will be willing to work with us as we
try to craft through how it is we would do something along
I was glad to see Director Miller stayed through the
panel's presentation because he is on the front line in our
efforts here within the executive branch and we here in the
Anything else, ladies, that you would like to let us know
about that we should know about?
If not, thank you very much for the testimony. We will look
forward to working with you on addressing this problem.
The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:08 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned, to
reconvene subject to the call of the Chair.]