Mail-Order Brides: Gilded Prostitution and the Legal Response

This Note explores the international mail-order bride industry where women from Asia and other developing countries are trafficked to men in Western industrialized countries. The author discusses the commonalities between the mail-order bride traffic and other forms of sexual exploitation, as well as the cultural and historical forces and the gender, ethnic, and class subordination which together fuel the demand for Asian Pacific mail-order brides. In the United States, the potential for exploitation is made greater in that immigrant brides face a threat of deportation during the first two years of residence via immigration laws. Given the inequalities between consumer-husbands and immigrant brides, the author argues that the threat of deportation acts like a two-year warranty for the consumer-husband that his mail-order bride will remain .in the marriage. The author then places the current immigration sanctions in the context of past immigration policies targeting Asian Pacific women. The author concludes with an agenda for reform which takes aim at both immigration policies and those who escape scrutiny under the current legal scheme: bridal agencies and consumer-husbands. But given the complex and transnational dynamics driving the mail-order bride traffic, the author notes that meaningful reform must proceed beyond domestic legal efforts to stem the traffic itself.