[Stop-traffic] News/Israel: Mail-order brides may be virtual slaves

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Israel: Mail-order brides may be virtual slaves
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Aug 02 2000 - 14:43:25 EDT


Mail-order brides may be virtual slaves
By Heidi J.Gleit
Jerusalem Post, Wednesday, July 5 2000

JERUSALEM (July 5) - The New Family organization has asked police to
investigate whether several Israeli companies providing mail-order
brides from the Ukraine are operating legally.

The organization questions whether the companies allow the women to
retain their passports and maintain their freedom, or turn them into
virtual slaves wholly dependent on the men who "ordered" them.

New Family chairwoman Irit Rosenblum filed the complaint yesterday
after Ma'ariv published a story about several companies providing
Israeli men with "young, pretty, domestic" wives from the Ukraine for
approximately $4,500. According to the article, the men select a wife
from the agencies' photo albums and fly to the Ukraine to meet and
marry them, and then bring them back to Israel. If they are not
satisfied with the women when they meet them, the agency offers them
others.

The mail-order bride business is an international phenomenon,
according to Rosenblum. She began looking into it about six months
ago after seeing a Web site advertisement. She explained that while
New Family usually advocates for Israeli residents who cannot marry
legally here, the organization also wants to ensure that the women
are not held prisoner through marriage.

The mail-order bride business is new in Israel, and there are
probably several dozen such brides here.

Between 100,000 and 150,000 women a year are sold as mail-order
brides, Rosenblum said, adding that the industry generates $17
billion a year. According to statistics compiled in the US, only 10
percent of these marriages work out; in some, the women become
prisoners.

Most of the women are from the Philippines and Ukraine, and enter the
marriages willingly, seeing matrimony as a ticket out of poverty,
Rosenblum explained. But they often don't realize the problems they
can face, and are often powerless to fight them.

"The test is whether the women can leave the marriage [if she is
unhappy]," she said, adding that the phenomenon raises complex moral
and legal issues.

"The police and the Interior Ministry have an obligation to
investigate what is happening [before the phenomenon increases here],
and if it becomes clear that the women are being abused and
imprisoned, it must be stopped," she said.

While the agencies are partly a matchmaking service, they exploit the
fact that the women are impoverished, said Ronit Lev-Ari, who is
awaiting the cabinet's approval to take on the chairwomanship of the
Prime Minister's Office's Authority for the Advancement of Women.

When the women arrive in Israel they find themselves financially,
socially, and legally dependent on their new husbands - a situation
that is hardly a good start for a marriage, she said.

She noted that the man quoted in the Ma'ariv article made it clear
that he wanted a wife who would care for and cater to him in a way
that is not exactly suitable to modern Israeli society. While the
women may initially agree to this, Lev-Ari wondered whether they feel
differently once they become acclimated to Israeli society.

"Israeli women have demands that border on hutzpa. Feminism has gone
too far here and I don't want to battle with it," Ofer Elkabetz is
quoted as saying. Elkabetz, 44, of Sderot, married a Ukrainian woman
provided by an agency in April.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about the list at
<<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
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Stop-traffic is facilitated, international electronic list
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dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.
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