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USA, Singapore: On Buying Brides with Credit Cards

The Human Trafficking blog by Amanda Kloer at Change.org in the United States declared victory on Friday in their campaign to get the credit card company Diners Club International to stop doing business with a company in Singapore that sells Vietnamese mail order brides. More than 800 people signed a petition to get Diners Club to stop making it easier to purchase women for marriage.

The online petition said:

Human beings should not be bought or sold, and they certainly shouldn't be part of a payment plan, a “blue light special”, or a clearance sale. Mail order brides are not only extremely vulnerable to human trafficking, but also domestic violence, abuse, rape, and exploitation. While creating a payment plan to purchase a human being is ethically and philosophically disgusting, it also reduces the economic barrier to buying a bride. Removing that barrier allows traffickers to acquire women using less capital than they needed before. It opens the door to a new socio-economic class of criminals to buy and exploit these women.

Mail order brides are not illegal in Singapore, nor in most other parts of the world. This month, The Electric New Paper in Singapore published a series of articles about Vietnam Brides International, including one about the company's $167 a month payment plan with Diners Club, and another about the sliding scale of prices for brides depending on where they are from. The journalist, Crystal Chan, also spoke to the assistant general manager (sales and marketing) for Diners Club (Singapore), who said, “We don't make a moral judgment on the business set-up of our merchant partners. For us, it's more important that the business is legitimate.”

Since the petition, the credit card company has changed its tune and written the following in a letter to Change.org:

“On behalf of Diners Club International, which is part of Discover Financial Services, we appreciate [your] bringing this specific merchant relationship with a Diners franchisee to our attention. Formal steps have been taken to terminate the relationship [with Vietnam Brides International].”

On Change.org Amanda Kloer concludes:

This statement is telling, and it says that you all made a huge difference. Your letters made Diners Club aware of the partnership one of their franchisees had made with a mail order bride service. You helped keep an important financial protection in place for women at risk of trafficking and abuse via the mail order bride industry. You refused to accept that an international company can treat and finance women like objects. This is one of those rare moments when you can see the important changes your actions bring, and the difference you make in the world.

Thank you for bringing this issue to Diners Club's attention. And thank you Diners Club International for making the important decision to protect women and girls from exploitation. Together, we are the change we wish to see.

In April, Global Voices linked to a post by Alvinology in Singapore about an Al Jazeera film about Vietnamese mail order brides. The film tells the story of two girls who come to Singapore seeking new lives.

Alvinology wonders why men must resort to foreign brides when there are already both men and women in Singapore. He writes:

In the video, a Vietnamese bride can be “purchased” on-the-spot for S$10,000. The girl on the right was only 18-years-old when she was sold to a 35 year-old Singaporean man who went to the matchmaking agency to choose his bride together with his mom.

What’s even more humiliating, the girls were made to visit a clinic in Singapore to get a certificate verifying their virginity before they can be sold.

While both the Vietnamese girls and the Singaporean men who entered into such marriages are willing adults, I wonder how many of such couples end up truly happy.

  • Booya

    167/month is really affordable. Can y ou guys recommend an agency?

  • http://www.wikigender.org Keiko

    Human trafficking of women, such as mail-order brides, is a growing problem that knows no boundaries. A great victory to have Diners Club stop making this practice easier but there is still much more to be done before women are no longer treated as chattel. The UN Rapporteur on Violence against Women noted: ‘the lack of rights afforded to women serves as the primary causative factor at the root of both women’s migration and traffi cking in women [...]. By failing to protect and promote women’s civil, political, economic and social rights, Governments create situations in which trafficking flourishes. [read more and contribute to the debates on http://www.wikigender.org/index.php/Trafficking_of_Women

  • Craig

    What’s wrong with a foreign bride? American women don’t like it because they don’t like the competition. Maybe american women ought to seek their fortune in Singapore if they think it is so great.

  • http://cepgl.blogspot.com Jean-Louis K

    Women are to be respected, we all come from their wombs.

    This traffick has to be stopped, likewise female circumcision too.

    We have to tap on our culture on the way our fore fathers were accustomed and lived in peace and harmony.

    The blame is shared by the buyer and the seller.

    If, I have to put a price on the lady that I would like to marry, the relation is doomed and the foundation is more than shaky.

  • http://www.solanasaurus.com/ Solana Larsen

    Craig, the problem is not that women are foreign. It is that they are being bought and sold like property, and are at great risk of abuse. If you have any appreciation for women’s rights you should be concerned. If not, I don’t imagine you care to read this post carefully.

    Booya, I hope you are joking.

  • Pingback: Readers Edition » USA, Singapur: Braut per Kreditkarte

  • Derek Everage

    It is trully a shame when we have to order women from other (poorer) countries to be satisfied with what we can consider our soul mates, its a shame that our realaticonships with american women are so bad/ or so strained that we feel theres no hope or chance for anything positive to develope, more important is the thought of some perverts wanting to order young vunerable babies who might not even speak the language just to elevate their low self esteem and live out their twisted fantasies.

  • Mary

    Buying a bride???according to our great grand mothers,the man have to woe a woman for ten years and the man have to serve the family of a woman by fitching waters..etc. to prove his love is pure ofcourse with matching “harana” a filipino culture of singing love songs for the lady.
    now a man can just have a stranger for 10,000 USD.
    do they respect and really love each other? as if your buying an expensive toy….

  • rolfen

    Although i dont support mail-order brides, this phenomenon has been going on for ages, and I dont think a bit of outcy is going to stop it. Therefore I think the best approach is to legalize it and educate these women towards what they must expect and the rights that they have if things go bad.
    I think the most effective way of fighting objectification of women is to grant them more rights in marriage, educate them about divorce, and higher their education and opportunities in the poor countries they come from.

  • Pingback: USA, Singapore: On buying brides with credit cards – Conversations for a Better World

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