Sat, Mar 09, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Immigrant spouses face discrimination: activists

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Discrimination and domestic violence are still threats for immigrant spouses, rights advocates said yesterday as they called for more support services for immigrant spouses, better education for the general public on respecting cultural diversity and an end to commercial marriage brokeraging.

“My husband beat me every day, and told me to go back to Vietnam every day,” Nguyen Mei Ling, a 41-year-old Vietnamese-Taiwanese who immigrated to Taiwan 10 years ago after marrying a Taiwanese man, told a new conference in Taipei.

“I told him that I’ve already made my home here and even if I were to leave the country, I could not leave my daughter here alone. I am also human and I have feelings too. It hurt whenever I was beaten,” she added.

Nguyen finally escaped her suffering last year when she divorced her husband and she now works on her own to raise her daughter.

However, not every abused foreign spouse is as fortunate.

“I interviewed a Vietnamese immigrant spouse nicknamed Thuy, who used to live in a poor farming village in Vietnam,” said Hou Shur-tzy (侯淑姿), an assistant professor at National University of Kaohsiung who has been conducting field research on immigrant spouses since 2005. “She married a Taiwanese man because a broker went to her village and asked her if she wanted to marry a Taiwanese to improve her family’s economic situation.”

However, when Thuy arrived in Taiwan, she found that her “husband” was not the same man she had met in Vietnam and he was very abusive, Hou said.

Thuy then found a chance to escape from her “husband” and worked to save enough money to buy a flight ticket to Vietnam.

“When she arrived home, she was discovered to have cancer and her parents had to sell their family farms so that she could get money to see a doctor, but she died three months later,” Hou said. “All her family received from the marriage was NT$2,000 [US$67.40].”

“It’s shocking and saddening to see that marriage can still be bought or sold in modern times,” said Sun Chung-hsing (孫中興), a sociology professor at National Taiwan University. “It’s also shocking to see how much discrimination immigrants face in this country.”

“We should realize that most of our population are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants, so the only difference is when we or our ancestors came here, otherwise we are all the same,” he added.

He suggested there should be a “Thanksgiving Day” designated to show gratitude to immigrants for their contribution in bringing diversity into the country.

National Chiao Tung University associate professor Wei Ti (魏玓) agreed that discrimination is a serious problem, and that the public should become more open-minded about immigrants and cultural diversity.

However, Wei said he is hopeful, as many media outlets are speaking out against discrimination.

“The amount of voices against discrimination is still small, but I am still hopeful,” he said.

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