Sunday, April 19, 2009

International: Abuse, Exploitation & the International Marriage Broker (IMB) Biz

FROM TAHIRIH JUSTICE CENTER - In recent years, the IMB industry has exploded in response to a demand by some American men for a “traditional” wife from countries such as the Philippines and Russia.

Based on 2007 immigration statistics, between 11,000 and 16,500 foreign brides may enter the United States every year as a result of IMB matches.1 The business model and marketing practices of many of these IMBs are attracting predators as clients, and, as a result, a growing number of matches are being made between foreign women and abusive US men as prospective husbands. Despite regulatory reforms spearheaded by Tahirih, many women find themselves in dangerously violent relationships, as they are unfamiliar with the English language and the US legal system, given little information about their prospective husbands, and misled or not told about their rights because IMBs want to preserve their profitable matchmaking track records. Read more about Tahirih's IMB Campaign

Nataliya’s Story

Nataliya, a native of Ukraine, was a successful civil engineer. She trusted Encounters International, a large international marriage broker (IMB) agency, to find a life partner. Nataliya was paired with James, an American, and was told by the agency that he was “the best of the best,” “financially and mentally stable,” and “serious about family.”

Soon into the marriage, Nataliya realized that James was a violent man. When she confided to the agency that James beat her and went into wild rages, Nataliya was told that this was “normal,” that American men were “prone to violence.” The violence escalated and became much worse after Nataliya became pregnant. After an especially brutal encounter three weeks after the birth of their child when James put a gun to her head, Nataliya went to the emergency room, where a nurse told her that she had other options.

Nataliya escaped to a domestic violence shelter, where she found safety and was referred to Tahirih. Tahirih successfully represented Nataliya’s case and on May 29, 2001, Nataliya’s petition under the Violence Against Women Act was approved. Nataliya’s suffering led Tahirih to recognize that the role of the IMB agency in facilitating the abuse was part of a larger problem. Tahirih partnered with Arnold & Porter LLP and brought the first lawsuit in the United States against an IMB. In November 2004, after a two-week federal jury trial, Nataliya won, marking the first time an IMB was held responsible for its role in enabling the abuse of a foreign bride.


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