Click Here for Katya: An Investigation of the International Matchmaking Industry
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This thesis is an examination of the situation of immigrant women. It explores the international matchmaking process and its relationship to the precarious situation of immigrant women married to abusive U.S. spouses. Although the experiences described above are not necessarily representative, Christina's story emphasizes the problems of international matchmaking, while Elina's tale highlights the positive possibilities. This thesis will include a discussion of the diverse critiques of the international matchmaking industry. It will culminate with recommendations for United States policy. The first chapter of this thesis will describe the practices and procedures of the international matchmaking industry. International matchmaking agencies operate with the purpose of uniting men from economically powerful, Western nations with women from less industrialized, poorer countries for the purported purpose of marriage. It is a rapidly growing industry, catalyzed by the relative ease of physical movement across nation-state borders and the fast paced, borderless, communication medium of the Internet. International matchmaking agencies recruit women to appear in catalogues and on Internet sites as prospective marital partners of primarily American, Australian, Canadian and German men looking for foreign wives. This thesis focuses exclusively on international matchmaking in the U.S. context. Men pay for access to the addresses of the women they have selected among the photographs on the Internet site or in the catalogue. The women are often referred to as "mail order brides." Chapter One is an introduction to international matchmaking. It begins by tracing the origins of the industry to the practices of 17 century European settlements on the North American continent. It discusses the methods that contemporary matchmaking agencies employ to solicit men and women users of their services. Chapter one also explores the connection between the trafficking of women for the purpose of prostitution and international matchmaking. This chapter concludes with a description of international matchmaking in the United States. Chapter Two is intended to shed light on the motivations of the men and women "clients" of international matchmaking agencies. Why are tens of thousands of foreign women, especially Russian and Filipinas, using international matchmaking services? How do these women personally explain their reasons for resorting to international matchmaking? Are there structural reasons why women from these two countries are enticed to use matchmaking agency services? How do U.S. men personally explain their reasons for using international matchmaking services? Are there structural reasons that U.S. men use international matchmaking agencies to seek a marital partner? There have been many critiques of the matchmaking industry, reproaching both its practices and the ideology driving the development and expansion of this industry. These critiques will be delineated in the final section of chapter two. Chapter Three explores the relationship between international matchmaking and domestic violence. It begins with the anecdotal experiences of several women who married U.S. men they met through international matchmaking agencies and who became victims of spousal battery and abuse. These women's stories serve as poignant examples for discussing the precarious situation of immigrant women who marry abusive spouses through international matchmaking agencies and are subjected to abuse in the United States. Their experiences as battered women are affected by the confounding factors of race, immigration status, cultural differences, linguistic limitations, method of immigration and misperceptions of law enforcement and the United States legal system. Law professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw's "intersectionality" analysis will be discussed to aid in a theoretical understanding of the constellation of factors that define battered immigrant women's experiences. Why are immigrant women, especially those who meet their U.S. husbands through international matchmaking agencies, particularly vulnerable to domestic violence? As chapter three explains, immigrant women face significant barriers both when attempting to leave an abusive relationship and when attempting to access services and support. Further, the tools an abusive man may use to maintain power and control are strengthened when the victim is an immigrant "mail order bride." Chapter Four examines current United States policy with regard to the international matchmaking industry. Recognizing that international matchmaking "as is" is plainly unacceptable, Ayuda Inc. has articulated specific policy recommendations with regard to the international matchmaking industry. This policy statement is presented in its entirety. Chapter four also includes a discussion of several immigration law reforms that would ease the plight of battered immigrant women. Implemented together, regulation of the matchmaking industry and immigration law reform have the ability to substantially reduce the vulnerability to abuse of foreign-born brides married to U.S. men they met though international matchmaking, and to lessen the power that batterers presently have over their immigrant victims.