Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Mail-Order Brides in a Global World

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Mail-Order Brides in a Global World

Article excerpt


One's first impression upon visiting the mail-order bride ("MOB") web sites and reading the catalogues is of personal ads for singles in the age of globalization. (2) The growing solitude of adults who have gone through difficult relationships, separations, and divorces--coupled with the difficulty of meeting compatible, available people--leads many to turn to specialized introduction services in the hope of meeting a soulmate. Today this phenomenon has assumed global proportions. The global quest for romance has been made possible by the growing accessibility of information technology networks and international travel. In this theoretical scenario, the ultimate goal is an intercultural marriage, with the objective of enabling the woman to immigrate.

While the first impression offered by international introduction agencies corresponds to the way the mail-order bride agencies and the First World husbands describe themselves, this first impression does not take into consideration the point of view of women. (3) Indeed, anti-feminist backlash is a recurring theme on the mail-order bride web sites. (4) A closer look at the mail-order bride practices of these introduction agencies--which I will also refer to as MOB practices--reveals multi-dimensional and interrelated inequities that place the bride in a position of dependence in relation to her First World husband. The true result of the MOB practice is a flourishing and lucrative industry involving the trafficking of women from the Third World to husbands in the First World.

The mail-order bride trade feeds on highly unrealistic and contradictory expectations about marital relationships. The First World husband is typically looking for a docile, submissive, and subservient bride whom he can control and dominate. (5) He seeks a MOB specifically because of sexist sentiments, and his hatred and fear of the feminist movement. He rejects women of his own nationality as wives because he considers them to be aggressive and egotistical. He believes they are too ambitious, make excessive demands in marriage, and have expectations of equality with their husbands. He criticizes the desire of women for autonomy, independence, and equality. The bride, on the other hand, desires an American of the Hollywood star variety: a good, respectful, faithful, and loving husband and father. (6) The ideal type is white, tall, and has blue eyes. This trade is founded on the crudest of stereotypes, where the merchants of dreams--the MOB agencies--get rich not only at the expense of the First World husbands, but above all at the expense of the brides.

In this paper, I will first briefly describe the legal framework of the MOB trade in Canada and in the United States as well as the different scenarios that await the bride upon her arrival in North America. Then, I will turn to the inequalities between countries and the sexism at the global level that leads to a flourishing MOB trade. I will conclude with a few recommendations.


A. The Law in Canada

In Canadian law, there is no specific legislation governing the mail-order bride trade. Consequently, the various legal transactions involved in this phenomenon fall within several different areas of Canadian law--both private and public--and in both federal and provincial jurisdictions. The MOB trade raises issues relating to contract law, (7) immigration law, (8) marriage law, (9) criminal law, (10) and private international law, (11) among others. In short, the mail-order bride trade under Canadian law seems inextricably caught in a maze.

In the context of this maze, immigration law plays by far the most important role. Until recently, women immigrated to Canada with a spousal visa when the marriage had been held in the bride's country or with a fiancee's visa when the marriage was to be held in Canada. (12) In both cases, the bride or spouse acquired permanent resident status upon arrival in Canada. …

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