News/PHILIPPINES: WEEKENDER TILL DEATH DO US PART - THE HORRORS OF BEING A MA

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Subject: News/PHILIPPINES: WEEKENDER TILL DEATH DO US PART - THE HORRORS OF BEING A MA
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon May 08 2000 - 11:24:45 EDT


3-24-00 PHILIPPINES: WEEKENDER TILL DEATH DO US PART - THE HORRORS OF BEING
A MAIL-ORDER BRIDE.
By Robert J.A. Basilio, Jr.
The term "mail-order bride" is carefully used by the members of Kapisanan
ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc. (KAKAMMPI), a
community-based organization of families of overseas Filipino workers
formed in 1983 with chapters inside and outside Metro Manila.
Just ask Ellene Sana, KAKAMMPI's advocacy and documentation officer.
Although she does admit that many of these women who married foreigners and
eventually went abroad did find better lives for them and their respective
families, even if they met through an introduction or a marriage-matching
agency, she also entertained the possibility that some of them may not
exactly have found the loves of their lives.
"Some of them may have gotten married because they fell in love but
unfortunately, some of them have also encountered misfortune," Ms. Sana
said in an interview with BusinessWorld.
But even though the KAKAMMPI staff members themselves make haste in
characterizing whether a Filipina who married a foreigner is a mail-order
bride or not, they nevertheless know the difference.
They know, for instance, that when the Commission of Filipinos Overseas
(CFO), under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), counseled 18,598
Filipino fiance(e)s/spouses of foreigners in 1996, a full 91% were women.
Of this figure, 70% had limited or no knowledge of their host country, 62%
were below 30 years old, and 42% were unemployed.
This is the reason KAKAMMPI, with the help of other government and
nongovernment organizations, has been organizing fora, especially for
Filipinos who have nurtured the fantasy, common among the poor and
uneducated living in urban and rural areas, that marrying any foreigner is
a passport to the good life.
Moreover, a considerable number of Filipinas who marry foreigners, either
become victims not only of brutality and repression, but at times murder.
According to the documents provided by the Center for Philippine Concerns
Australia (CPCA), a national alliance of Filipino groups and individuals
around Australia, from 1980 to 1998, there have been 27 Filipinas, aged 17
to 44, who have either disappeared or have been murdered.
In a report written by Dee Dicen Hunt of the CPCA and Nicki Saroca of the
Solidarity Philippines Australia Network (SPAN), the two writers asserted
that "all the known suspected, accused, or convicted perpetrators were
either the woman's employer, partner, ex-partner or de-facto, and where the
ethnicity of the perpetrators is known, all, to the best of our knowledge,
are non-Filipinos."
One for The Twilight Zone
The murder of Elma Albaracin Young, 42, a nurse, is a perfect case in
point. The 14th Filipino woman migrant violently murdered in Australia
since 1980, Ms. Young's body, heavy with child, was found dumped in a ditch
in Munruben, Queensland, on Feb. 21, 1994. The primary suspect was her
husband, senior Police constable Paul Young, who was later convicted on a
lighter sentence of manslaughter, not murder, of his wife.
The lighter conviction, according to the reports of KASAMA, a newsletter of
the Philippine-Australia Solidarity Group in Queensland, seemed to favor
the police officer.
The January-February 1995 issue of the newsletter related that "jury
selection was no longer a surprise" since no "dark-skinned,"
"Asian-looking, or "feminist-looking" men or women were included.
KASAMA also reported that Judge Dowsett of Brisbane's Supreme Court even
argued with the prosecution's counsel, David Bullock, whether to show all
the tapes of the police interviews with Mr. Young on video because their
length might stretch the attention span of the jury beyond their limits.
KASAMA's Emere Distor also took note of a claim of the defense, which she
said brings to mind an episode in the television serial, The Twilight Zone.
She reported that two psychologists were invited to the witness stand to
affirm or dispute Mr. Young's claims that he had an "out-of-body
experience" during the time of the murder. In one of his testimonies, Mr.
Young said he felt that "he was like watching himself in a movie while
squeezing his wife's throat."
Although both pychologists gave the court their expert opinions regarding
Mr. Young's experience, their views regarding the disassociative state -
defined as a state in which an individual is so focused on only one thing
that s/he becomes oblivious about the entire environment, and has no
recollection for a period of time - made the whole court impatient.
According to Ms. Distor's report in the newsletter, the seven-day trial
failed "to establish the history of domestic violence experienced by the
deceased during the course of her marriage." The Australian department of
public prosecutions did bring Ms. Young's mother from the Philippines "only
to have her evidence of Elma's ill-treatment at the hands of Paul ruled by
Judge Dowsett as 'inadmissible.'"
"The unresolved mystery of this trial," Ms. Distor continued, "is how the
jury was supposed to come to a decision, at the direction of the judge,
about murder or manslaughter, 'in the context of Mr. and Mrs. Young's
normal relationship' when the relevant history of the relationship is
judged to be inadmissible in Queensland's supreme court."
Ms. Distor observed that Filipinas are victims of stereotyping, especially
how they are portrayed in mass media.
"In Australia, to be a Filipina is to be stereotyped as someone who is
married to a man old enough to be her father. Although we are glad that
there are many responsible journalists who are aware of this malicious
notion, there are still some who would be glad to bend and exaggerate the
facts to serve their own interests in the name of freedom of expression,"
Ms. Distor said, during a 1995 campaign against sex tourism held in the
Philippines.
Exaggerated reportage
Such instances of hyperbolized media coverage about Filipinas are not
limited to Australia. The same thing pretty much happened in Finland in
September 1995. This was reported by a paper written by Sari Korkalainen
and Laura Nisula of the Finnish-Philippine Society which they presented at
another KAKAMMPI forum.
Entitled "Filipinas in Finland: Social Affairs and the Mail-Order Bride
Phenomenon," the paper related that in September 1995, a prominent
newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, reported that over 1,000 Filipino wives were
involved in mail-order bride trafficking to Finland. This news became so
sensational that for over several months, almost every newspaper, magazine,
radio, and television program participated in the debate which later
ensued.
The report said that not only was the Helsingin Sanomat article
exaggerated, it would also be highly improbable. Currently, there are only
750 Filipinos in Finland. Of this figure, 400 are women, approximately 97
are men, while the remaining 250 are those who have already gained Finnish
citizenship, including children.
Although the real number of mail-order brides was later corrected - it was
only 120 - the media, the Finnish researchers said, "created a one-sided,
racist, and sexist stereotypical image of a docile, submissive Filipina who
does not require equality in her marriage."
"The sensational publicity labeled all the Filipinas as mail-order brides,
and it roused mixed reactions from among the Finns: sympathy, amusement,
shock, and hostility. It was easily forgotten that most Filipinas had after
all moved to Finland through either routes: i.e., they have met their
Finnish husbands somewhere abroad, mostly in the Middle East, where there
are a great number of Finnish construction workers as well as Filipino
nurses and maids. People were also led to think that all of them were
married to farmers and were living in the countryside which was not the
case," the research paper continued.
Although the researchers did admit that on the average, many Filipinas
married to Finns claim to be happy with their respective lives, they
nevertheless refused to discount the possibility of uncaring, violent, and
alcoholic husbands. The paper also made mention of the much-speculated
inability of Finnish men to talk about their emotions, which is a stumbling
block toward marital bliss.
"The main reasons of disagreement in a Filipino-Finnish marriage seem to be
the wife's right to children and her lack of freedom to communicate with
others outside the home," the paper explained. "Some of the women were also
made to believe that they have little right to be in Finland and that they
are entirely dependent on their husbands. According to statistics, it seems
that foreign women married to Finns visit women's shelters more often than
do the Finnish women and that also, many Filipinas have needed these
services."
Preconceived perceptions
These events illuminate one single, common, yet unfortunate truth about
Filipinas: that before a Filipina gets to know - or even decides for
herself - how she is perceived, there is already an derogatory image of
her, as if almost automatically, observed Aurora Javate-De Dios, executive
director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)-Asia Pacific.
"What I'm saying is that the men out there already have preconceived ideas
of Filipinas which the Filipinas themselves sadly do not know," she said.
"The projection of the Filipina in websites as potential brides and
marriage material has been so widespread because of the Internet."
Although she did recognize the benefits of the online world, she remained
staunch in her assessment that the Internet has created the perfect
marketing tool for marriage-matching agencies. In an article written by
Donna Hughes, CATW education and research coordinator, mail-order bride
agents were directly quoted as saying that it was "the perfect venue for
this kind of business."
But to Ms. De Dios as well as to the CATW, trafficking for marriage is
still trafficking, no matter what medium is used. Apart from the fact that
a third party profits from the transaction, there is also the element of
inequality.
"I think we are at a point where we would like to clarify that trafficking
can occur utilizing a range of methods and modalities such as adoption,
kidnapping, or the use of enticements," she said, adding that recently that
a popular Korean cult was reported to have been offering jobs to Filipinas
in the provinces in exchange for marriage.
But despite many laws banning mail-order brides, primarily the Mail-Order
Bride Law (RA 6955), Ms. De Dios is pessimistic that things will improve
for Filipinas. Because many women cannot leave the country legally as
migrant workers, she explained that many opt for the next logical choice -
to become a foreigner's bride.
"There is convergence of needs borne out of the desperation of the
situation of the Filipinas," she said, pointing to globalization as the
culprit since it has terrible effects on the lives of women - Filipinas
included - and children. "At the same time, these agressive promotion and
marketing of Filipinas and other Asian women as the solution to the problem
of men's loneliness and isolation has become effective to the extent that
the men buy it and it leads to disastrous results."
But women's groups - CATW and KAKAMMPI included - refuse to be cowed by
such a situation. Such a issue, they said, can only be solved once the
issue of male responsibility in this trade is confronted.
(C) Business World Publishing Corporation 2000.
BUSINESS WORLD (PHILIPPINES) 24/03/2000 P29


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