Mail order brides - the ethics
First of all, it's worth noting that women who live in countries with opportunities for employment and education don't have (read: need) agencies where they can sign up as mail order brides.
In fact, we would never dream of it.
The convenient misconception of men who buy wives online is that the women come from countries where "traditional" marriage values are a cultural norm: Vietnam, Thailand, The Philippines, Russia and Ukraine.
When women don't have opportunities other than being a mother and wife, cultural "values" can appear to support "traditional" marriage principles. But when you delve deeper, that truth doesn't stack up.
As happened with Hungary, once it became part of the EU and basic human rights were extended to women, Hungarian mail order brides dropped off the radar.
Which begs the question: is mail order bride just another term for female trafficking?
Amazingly, buying a mail order bride is legal
Mail order brides mostly come from Eastern Europe and Asia. Places where historically, women have been (and still are) considered second class citizens and have few opportunities.
Irrespective of the fact women in Russia and the Ukraine outnumber men by 10.5million (a reason given by marriage brokers to explain the plethora of hot, available women), this form of international dating isn't dating. It's essentially trafficking dressed up as dating. Which surprisingly makes it legal.
What's baffling about this is that someone's making money (lots) from the sale of these women. And it's not the women themselves who are benefitting.
What's it like to be a mail order bride?
Let's talk about Lichi (pron: Lee-chee) for a moment.
Lichi was a 27-year old Myanmar woman who signed up with Paradise Girls, a US-based mail order bride agency. Adrian Martin, a New York security guard who'd had nothing but bad luck with women, decided buying a wife was his best shot at finding love.
He chose Lichi from a catalogue.
Within 3 months of corresponding, Martin had bought a K-1 marriage immigration visa and Lichi was on her way to a new life in the US. But it didn't quite turn out as she'd expected. Lichi and Adrian's story was chronicled in a film called Mail Order Wife.
After an awkward first meeting where Lichi's eyes didn't leave the ground, we see Martin teaching his new wife how to scrub the toilet. He also informs her the right way to hang the toilet roll then proceeds to show her how to make chilli which includes adding half a bottle of tomato sauce to the pan.
Lichi appears to remain relatively comfortable with her new life until Martin shows her how to feed live rats to his pet snake.
At this point she's in tears. And we're guessing it's not just because of feeding time.
OK, the movie is fiction but it mirrors what most of us believe is real life for women who've been brought to a western country via an online marriage agency.
Mail order murders
There are bound to be happy stories about finding a mail order wife but two tales that made headlines are of Susana Blackwell, a 25-year-old Filipino woman and Anastasia King a 20-year-old Russian, both of whom were murdered by their American husbands.
Not exactly a happily ever after.
Do some research on men who seek women through these sources and very quickly you'll be led to a state of grim despair and an unpleasant understanding as to why these dudes struggle to meet women who want to marry them in their country of origin.
Suffice to say, they're not usually what you'd call a catch.
Despite the risks, mail order brides are on the rise – the Center for Immigration Studies estimates around 10,000 enter the US each year. It's so popular there are even bus tours that take men to countries like Ukraine where they enjoy organised singles events and are introduced to Ukrainian women.
In the Journeyman documentary The Women of Odessa Paying to Meet Wealthy Foreigners, Arthur, 65, has been on seven of these tours and is apparently looking for his next wife.
Although, it seems he's just there to sleep with as many women as possible, the calibre of which he'd never get access to in America. But that's just my opinion.
He likens the process of finding a wife to buying a used car. "It's like purchasing a used Cadillac or Jaguar," he says. "I need to drive it before I make a decision about it."
You can make your own mind up about that one.
How to buy a mail order wife
The process and cost of buying a mail order bride is thus:
- Sign up with an agency or marriage broker, estimated cost $10,000
- Choose a woman (or women) from an online profile or a printed catalogue. (It's free for women to join).
- Pay the fee to be given the woman's address (around $200) or send them an email (anywhere from $6-$15 per message. FYI men pay a fee to send and receive emails)
- Choose to meet your potential wife in person via solo travel or marriage tours (bus trips full of single men from the US that travel to Ukraine, Russia, Philippines for organised meet single women events). Cost approx $3500.
- If you find a woman you like, you'll need to purchase an Australian international partner visa which costs $7160 including GST
- If accepted you'll then have to pay for health checks at $400 a pop. And if your wife-to-be has any dependants, they'll have to be checked too. Regardless of whether they're also moving to Oz.
- If your wife needs a translator that's another $300-400 per page.
- Before any visa is approved, your wife will need to undergo police checks for all countries she's lived in. Rough cost $300
It's an expensive business and despite there being good, wholesome men hoping to find a match with a young, beautiful woman with exotic features and a cute accent, a lot of the online agencies are actually scams that lure men into believing they're contacting the woman of their dreams.
It costs them big.
Especially when reality hits and they discover the women whose picture they stare at while sending said emails, have never received their correspondence, and in actual fact, they've been emailing a man. Or at the very least, not the woman in the picture.
Call me harsh but I can't say I feel that sorry for them.