On Wednesday, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) released figures that showed alarmingly high rates of domestic violence against foreign spouses. The figures prompted the ministry to appeal for help and protection for overseas brides.
However, domestic violence is just one of a host of problems that plague these unions, with others in social, legal, cultural and economic areas.
Unfortunately, the government has so far failed to come up with any effective policies to deal with these problems.
The MOI figures suggest a domestic violence rate of close to 20 percent among mixed-nationality marriages, while figures from other social groups show even higher rates.
In any event, there is a general consensus that foreign spouses are more vulnerable and susceptible to domestic violence. This obviously has to do with the fact that they are a socially marginalized group -- typically weak in terms of financial resources and lacking the support of social networks in their new home country.
In addition, foreign brides often have a low level of education and fluency in Mandarin. This is one of the reasons cases of domestic violence against foreign spouses often go unreported.
Fear of going through a lengthy and expensive legal process during which they would have to fill out mountains of forms in a language they do not understand as well as fear of being forced to leave their new homeland where they had come to seek a better life are just two examples of why they often do not seek the protection of the law.
The weak foundation of these marriages is something that should not be ignored when it comes to analyzing their plight. Statistics have repeatedly shown that a large percentage of these marriages are arranged through brokers and agencies in a manner which resembles the auction of livestock. Men who seek such marriages are often working class men belonging to the lower social and economic classes.
Unable to find a suitable mate in Taiwan, they seek the assistance of agencies in finding brides from places such as China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. The main reasons for their wanting a bride is the need to produce an heir for the family and the need to take advantage of the free labor the bride can provide. Senior citizens like to find younger brides who can take care of them as they get older. Some men purposely pick brides much younger than themselves, sometimes up to 10, 20 or 30 years younger, as a way of showing off to their peers.
The marriage brokers' typical arrangement includes flying the prospective grooms to a city where they get to choose a mate from a group of young women. After a man identifies a woman he likes, he will date her for a few days and then marry her before the end of the trip. The entire process often takes less than a week.
Under these circumstances, the relationships between these couples are of course unequal. The husbands feel that that they are superior and entitled to treat their new brides anyway they like as they have "paid" for them. Other social problems such as unemployment, alcoholism and drug addiction often characterize such marriages.
The structure of Taiwan's population is rapidly changing as these foreign spouses immigrate to Taiwan and give birth to a generation of "new Taiwanese."
How to help these women and their families have a better life that lives up to the expectations they held when they came to Taiwan poses a real challenge for the government.