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.