Bride buying

Last updated

Bride-buying, also referred to as bride-purchasing, is the industry or trade of purchasing a bride as a form of property. This enables the bride to be resold or repurchased at the buyer's discretion. This practice continues to have a firm foothold in parts of the world such as China, North Korea, Vietnam and Africa. Described as a form of marriage of convenience, the practice is illegal in many countries.



One of the first recorded instances of bride-buying can be traced back to 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia. [1] The first Jamestown settlers were exclusively European males, [2] historian Alf J. Mapp Jr believes this could be due to the belief that "...women had no place in the grim and often grisly business of subduing a continent..." [3] With stories of famine, disease and dissension, the European women feared that leaving England and traveling to the colony would be of great risk. Unable to find wives, many men chose to desert the colony. In order to reduce desertion, colony leaders sent advertisements back to Europe, pleading for women to immigrate to the colony. Trying to persuade potential brides to come to Jamestown proved to be difficult, however, 17th-century marriage obstacles proved to be beneficial to the men of the colony. Attaining a home and constructing domestic household in Europe was costly. If not born into wealth, most people would need to obtain significant savings before being able to wed. The majority of working-class Englishwomen turned to domestic service to acquire the necessary funds to marry and marital immigration offered an enticing alternative to what otherwise would be years doing menial work for meager pay. The Virginia Company offered women who chose to leave England in favor of the colony generous incentives such as linens, clothing, a plot of land, and their choice of husband. After a husband was chosen, he would then pay the Virginia Company with 150 pounds (70kg) of "good leaf" tobacco (which is equivalent to roughly $5000 USD in today's currency) to pay for their bride's passage to the colony. This is how the Jamestown brides earned themselves the nickname the "tobacco brides". [4]

Mail-order Brides

One of the most common forms of modern-day bride-buying is mail-order brides. It is estimated that there are 90 agencies that deal with the selling and purchasing of mail order brides. [5] These agencies have websites that list the addresses, pictures, names and biographies of up to 25,000 women that are seeking husbands, with American husbands being the most common preference. While there are women listed on these sites from all over the world, the majority of mail-order brides come from Russia and the Philippines. According to these agencies, 10% of women who choose to become mail-order brides are successful and find a husband through their services. The agencies also state that there are around 10,000 mail-order marriages a year, with about 4,000 of these marriages involving men in the United States.

Bride-buying in Asia


Bride-buying is an old tradition in China. [6] The practice was largely stamped out by the Chinese Communists. However, the modern practice is "not unusual in rural villages"; it is also known as mercenary marriage. [7] According to Ding Lu of the non-governmental organization All-China Women's Federation, the practice had a resurgence due to China's surging economy. [6] From 1991 to 1996, Chinese police rescued upwards of 88,000 women and children who had been sold into marriage and slavery, and the Chinese government claimed that 143,000 traffickers involved were caught and prosecuted. Some human rights groups state that these figures are not correct and that the real number of abducted women is higher. Bay Fang and Mark Leong reported in U.S. News & World Report that "the government sees the commerce in wives as a shameful problem, it has only in recent years begun to provide any statistics, and it tries to put the focus on the women who have been saved rather than on the continuing trade." [8] Causes include poverty and bride shortage in the rural areas (rural women go to the cities to work). [6] As women leave rural areas to find work in cities, they are considered more vulnerable to being "tricked or forced into becoming chattel for men desperate for wives." [8] The shortage of brides in turn is due to amplification of the traditional preference of Chinese couples for sons by the 1979 one-child policy in China. [6] The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that in 1998 there were 120 men for every 100 women, with imbalances in rural areas being about 130 males for every 100 females. The increase in the cost of dowries is also a contributing factor leading men to buy women for wives. Human Rights in China states that it is more affordable for a man to buy a wife from a trafficker for 2,000 to 4,000 yuan than to pay a traditional dowry, which often runs upwards of 10,000 yuan. For the average urban worker, wife selling is an affordable option, since in 1998 at least; China urban workers made approximately $60 a month. [8] Brides for sale are outsourced from countries such as Burma, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea. The bride-traders sell women as brides or as prostitutes depending on their physical appearance. A common trick employed by bride-brokers in acquiring brides for sale is the offer of a job such as in factories and instead kidnapping them. Bride-traders can sell a young woman for the price of $250 to $800USD. US$50 to US$100 of the original price goes to the primary kidnappers while the rest of the income goes to the traffickers who bring the bride to the main client. [6]

Chinese women, who are bought as wives, who bear children are more prone to staying within the marriage. Fang Yuzhu of the China Women's Federation credits it with a "strong sense of duty" that Chinese women have, and the idea that it is shameful to leave their husband. Yuzhu also credits that some women might consider their forced marriage a better option to the life of poverty and hard labor they would be subject to upon returning home or the idea that some women may not feel they can find another husband, since they "have already been with one". [8]


Bride-buying is an old practice in many regions in India. [9] Bride-purchasing is common in the states of India such as Haryana, Jharkhand, [10] and Punjab. [9] According to CNN-IBN, women are “bought, sold, trafficked, raped and married off without consent” [11] across certain parts of India. Bride-purchases are usually outsourced from Bihar, Assam, and West Bengal. The price of the bride (locally known as paros in Jharkhand), if bought from the sellers, may cost between 4,000 and 30,000 Indian rupees, which is the equivalent of $88 to $660USD. [10] The brides' parents are normally paid an average of 500 to 1,000 Indian rupees (around $11 to $22USD). The need to purchase a bride arises from the low female-to-male ratio. Such low ratio was caused by the preference to give birth sons instead of daughters, and female foeticide. [12] In 2006, according to BBC News, there were around 861 women for every 1,000 men in Haryana; and the national ratio in India as a whole was 927 women for every 1,000 men. Women are not only purchased as brides or wives, but also as farm workers or househelp. Most women become “sex-slaves [10] or forced laborers [11] who are later resold to human traffickers [10] to defray the cost. [11]

According to Punjabi writer Kirpal Kazak, bride-selling began in Jharkhand after the arrival of the Rajputs. The tribe decorate the women for sale with ornaments. The practice of the sale of women as brides declined after the Green Revolution in India, the “spread of literacy”, and the improvement of the male-female ratio since 1911. The ratio, however, declined in 2001. The practice of bride-purchasing became confined to the poor sections of society such as farmers, Scheduled Castes, and tribes. In poverty-stricken families, only one son gets married due to poverty and to “avoid the division of landed property”. [9]


Bride-buying in North Korea is most common due to the great poverty the country suffers and the citizens taking many risks to leave the country. [13] Human traffickers take this as an opportunity to traffic desperate North Korean women across the country borders to China not often to sell as slaves, but mainly as brides. Upon arrival and wedlock, the women are said to be forced into labor, or sexual and physical abuse by their Chinese husbands. [14] Although, there are successful marriages, they hardly ever last because of the illegality of North Korean citizens crossing the border without authorization, despite the women having been in the country for many years neither them or their offspring are granted citizenship. [13] [14] As a result, they are arrested and sent back to their homeland or kept in China to face the consequences of trespassing. [14] Institutions around the world are requesting China to give refuge to the great number of people who fled North Korea seeking shelter, however the solicitation has not yet been approved of. [13] In South Korea, bride-buying is not as common as it is in North Korea, though it still exists in varied ways. The majority of the brides bought in South Korea are from different parts of Asia, largely from the southeast side, in addition bride buying internationally in South Korea is claimed to be encouraged as a result of the population declining. [15]


Bride-buying in Vietnam has progressed illicitly, becoming the most debauched commercialized industry in recent history, especially around the northern mountain provinces bordering China. [16] Virgin Vietnamese women, from 18 to 25 years old particularly, are targeted by several third-parties known as the quickie matchmaking agencies for East and Southeast Asian men from South Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Singapore. [17] [18] Virginity is considered the most valuable trait in this business as virgin Vietnamese women are often purchased at a higher price point. [19] The price ranges differ among agencies; packages are valued between $5000 [19] and $22,000USD [17] which includes a wedding, a visa, a health examination test, and a language course. [19] According to surveys conducted in Korea, 65% of the Vietnamese respondents only completed primary or lower secondary school. [20] This lack of education can explain the poor social knowledge that allows this industry to grow. [20] Vietnamese women prostitute themselves to foreigners. By selling sex for visas they are introduced to new duties which include labor and domestic servitude. [21] The aforementioned quickie agencies usually group three to five men together to search for Vietnamese wives. This grouping of potential customers generates more profit, saving the organization approximately 50 to 60% in fees estimated to be around $85,000USD per trip. [20]

Bride-buying in Africa

One thing many individuals in Africa disagree on is bride-buying. In Africa, bride-buying tends to work out against women's best interest, causing many to feel a sense of gender inequality as well as a lack in the women's rights sector. [22] In East Africa, some marriages involve transfer of valuable properties that are delivered from the families of the groom and gifted to the families of the bride. Certain phrases like bride-pricing, dowry, bride-wealth, and some indigenous words: "lobolo", "mala", "bogadi", and "chiko" all make up different codes of bride purchases. [23]


Literature that delves into the selling women as brides includes titles such as Eho Hamara Jeevna [24] by Punjabi novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana, the play Ik Hor Ramayan [25] by playwright Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Buying a Bride:An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches [26] by Marcia A. Zug, Object: Matrimony: The Risky Business Of Mail-Order Matchmaking On The Western Frontier [27] by Chris Enss, the epic Vietnamese poem The Tale of Kieu by Nguyễn Du, the novel Tat Den by Ngo Tat To, [28] and the novel Buying the Bride by Penny Wylder. [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

A mail-order bride is a woman who lists herself in catalogs and is selected by a man for marriage. In the twentieth century, the trend was primarily towards women living in developing countries seeking men in more developed nations. In the twenty-first century, the trend is now based primarily on internet-based meeting places which do not per se qualify as mail-order bride services. The majority of the women listed in the twentieth-century and twenty-first-century services are from Southeast Asia, countries of the former Eastern Bloc and from Latin America. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, large numbers of eastern European women have advertised themselves in such a way, primarily from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova. Men who list themselves in such publications are referred to as "mail-order husbands", although this is much less common.

The term picture bride refers to the practice in the early 20th century of immigrant workers in Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States and Canada selecting brides from their native countries via a matchmaker, who paired bride and groom using only photographs and family recommendations of the possible candidates. This is an abbreviated form of the traditional matchmaking process and is similar in a number of ways to the concept of the mail-order bride.

Bride kidnapping practice in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry

Bride kidnapping, also known as bridenapping, marriage by abduction or marriage by capture, is a practice in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry.

War bride

War brides are women who married military personnel from other countries in times of war or during military occupations, a practice that occurred in great frequency during World War I and World War II.

Prostitution in China Overview of Prostitution in Mainland China

After taking power in 1949, the Communist Party of China embarked upon a series of campaigns with the aim of eradicating prostitution from mainland China by the early 1960s. Since the loosening of government controls over society in the early 1980s, prostitution in mainland China not only has become more visible, but can now be found throughout both urban and rural areas. In spite of government efforts, prostitution has now developed to the extent that it comprises an industry, one that involves a great number of people and produces a considerable economic output. Prostitution has also become associated with a number of problems, including organized crime, government corruption, hypocrisy, and sexually transmitted diseases. For example, a Communist Party official who was a major provincial campaigner against corruption was removed from his post after he was caught in a hotel room with a prostitute.

Marriage in South Korea Marriage in South Korea

Marriage in South Korea mirrors many of the practices and expectations of marriages in other societies, and, as such, is constantly changing.

Vietnamese people in Korea, also known as Vietnamese Koreans, have a history going back to the latter days of Vietnam's Lý Dynasty. After the division of Korea and the Korean War, Vietnamese people had various contacts with both North and South Korea. In the latter, Vietnamese are the second-largest group of foreigners, after Chinese migrants.

The increasing number of Asian migrant brides in Japan marrying Japanese men is a phenomenon occurring in both rural and urban Japan. Since the mid 1980s, rural Japanese men have begun taking foreign Asian brides, from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China and South Korea, as a way of compensating for the reduced number of Japanese women of marriageable, childbearing age who are willing to marry rural Japanese men. The phenomenon later spread to urban parts of Japan as well. The phenomenon has created a new industry of foreign marriage brokering that uses both local governments and private organizations to facilitate the immigration of foreign brides. This is largely a result of an aging population in Japan where approximately 20% of the population is over the age of 65, which is exceptionally high, a fertility rate of only 1.3, and increased opportunities for women and increased costs in child care.

Vietnamese people in Taiwan form one of the island's larger communities of foreign residents. Of the roughly 80,000 Vietnamese workers who resided in Taiwan as of 2006, 60,000 are employed as domestic helpers, 16,000 work in factories, 2,000 in marine-based industries, and the remainder in other lines of work. They compose 21% of the island's foreign workers. 42% work in Taipei City, New Taipei City, and Taoyuan City. Additionally, 118,300 Vietnamese women who met Taiwanese men through international matchmaking services resided in Taiwan as of 2005.

Vietnam is primarily a source country for women and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and children are trafficked to the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C), Cambodia, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Macau for sexual exploitation. Vietnamese women are trafficked to the P.R.C., Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea via fraudulent or misrepresented marriages for commercial exploitation or forced labor. Vietnam is also a source country for men and women who migrate willingly and legally for work in the construction, fishing, or manufacturing sectors in Malaysia, Taiwan, P.R.C., Thailand, and the Middle East but subsequently face conditions of forced labor or debt bondage. Vietnam is a destination country for Cambodian children trafficked to urban centers for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Vietnam has an internal trafficking problem with women and children from rural areas trafficked to urban centers for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Vietnam is increasingly a destination for child sex tourism, with perpetrators from Japan, the Republic of Korea, the P.R.C., Taiwan, the UK, Australia, Europe, and the U.S. In 2007, an Australian non-governmental organization (NGO) uncovered 80 cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children by foreign tourists in the Sa Pa tourist area of Vietnam alone.

Vietnamese migrant brides in Taiwan represent marriages between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese brides who are mostly from poor, rural areas of Vietnam, such as those along the Mekong Delta. As of 2006, out of Taiwan’s immigrant population of approximately 428,240 people, 18% were females who had relocated to the country through marriage. Out of this population, about 85% originated from the Southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Philippines, with the majority hailing from Vietnam. It is estimated that between the years of 1995 and 2003, the number of Vietnamese women married to Taiwanese men increased from 1,476 to more than 60,000 individuals, making the Vietnamese the largest non-Chinese immigrant group living in the island.

Wife selling Practice of a husband selling his wife

Wife selling is the practice of a husband selling his wife and may include the sale of a female by a party outside a marriage. Wife selling has had numerous purposes throughout the practice's history; and the term "wife sale" is not defined in all sources relating to the topic.

Human trafficking in China

China is a main source and also a significant transit and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labour and forced prostitution. Women and children from China are trafficked to Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America, predominantly Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. Women and children from Myanmar, Vietnam, Mongolia, former USSR, North Korea, Romania, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Ghana are trafficked to China for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Women in Vietnam

The role of women in Vietnam was subject to many changes throughout the history of Vietnam. They have taken on varying roles in society, including warriors, nurses, mothers and wives. There have been many advances in women's rights in Vietnam, such as an increase in women representation in government, as well as the creation of the Vietnam Women's Union in 1930.

The Cecily Jordan v. Greville Pooley dispute was the first known prosecution for breach of promise in colonial America and the first in which the defendant was a woman. This case was tried in the chambers of the Virginia Company, and never went to a civil court, for the plaintiff withdrew his complaint. The first successful case was Stretch v. Parker in 1639.

Bride price Money or other form of wealth paid by a groom or his family to the family of the bride

Bride price, bridewealth, or bride token, is money, property, or other form of wealth paid by a groom or his family to the family of the woman he will be married to or is just about to marry. Bride price can be compared to dowry, which is paid to the groom, or used by the bride to help establish the new household, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. Some cultures may practice both dowry and bride price simultaneously. Many cultures practiced bride pricing prior to existing records.

Bride buying in India is a phenomenon of arranging marriages, where brides are referred to as the "paro" or "molki", in which the brides are sold by poor parents in impoverished regions to the husbands in relatively richer regions of North India. Due to the skewed sex ratio, there is shortage of women in India. The men of higher caste or socioeconomic status are able to marry local women within their community and region. While disadvantaged men, such as those in lower caste groups, the unemployed, poor or those who have disabilities are unable to find brides in their own community and region, resort to buying inter-region brides from the poorer regions. Key motivation for poor families to sell their daughter is to receive money and avoid paying dowry, while disadvantaged men get the bride for a price, "it works for both the iies". Major destination states are Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Western Uttar Pradesh. Major source states are the impoverished parts of Northeast India (Assam), Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

The history of international marriage of Vietnamese women has lasted for centuries. During the colonial period and Vietnam War, there were Vietnamese women married Europeans and Americans. However, the trends of international marriage among Vietnamese women rose in more contemporary time. Since 1990s, more and more Vietnamese women have married internationally and settled down in foreign countries with their husbands. Some of them have married Viet Kieu men in the west and faced the problem of diaspora marriage, while most of them have Koreans, Americans, Australians, French ,Taiwanese. The largest amount of international marriage of Vietnamese women attracted attention in the respect of the reasons for international marriage, the living conditions in destination countries and the images of these Vietnamese brides.

Sex trafficking in China is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and slavery that occurs in the People's Republic of China. China, the world's most populous country, has one of the highest rates of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, in the world. It is a country of origin, destination, and transit for sexually trafficked persons.

Sex trafficking in Vietnam is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and slavery that occurs in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Vietnam is a source and, to a lesser extent, destination country for sexually trafficked persons.


  1. Rioseco, Hanna (May 14, 2018). "The Real Housewives of Jamestown". Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  2. "The First Residents of Jamestown". NPS. February 26, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  3. "The Indispensable Role of Women at Jamestown". NPS. February 26, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  4. Zug, Marcia (2016-08-31). "The Mail-Order Brides of Jamestown, Virginia" (PDF). The Atlantic: 1–7.
  5. Scholes, Robert (April 1, 1997). "How Many Mail-Order Brides?". Immigration Review. 28: 7–10.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Marshall, Samantha, Joanne Lee-Young, and Matt Forney, Vietnamese Women Are Kidnapped and Later Sold in China as Brides, in The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, 1999.
  7. Mercenary Marriages Cause Turmoil in C China (Xinhua), in China Daily USA, section China, subsection Hot Issues, updated Sep. 2, 2011, 10:46p, as accessed Nov. 9 & 11, 2011.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Fang, Bay; Leong, Mark (1998). "China's stolen wives". U.S. News & World Report . 125 (14): 35. Retrieved 17 October 2011.(subscription required)
  9. 1 2 3 Dhaliwal, Sarbjit. Bride-buying an old practice in north India, Tribune News Service, August 17,
  10. 1 2 3 4 Agal, Renu. India's 'bride buying' country, BBC News, April 2006
  11. 1 2 3 Sharma, Kavitta and Divya Shah. Only in India: cheaper to buy bride than raise daughter, CNN-IBN,
  12. Gierstorfer, Carl (September 11, 2013). "Where Have India's Females Gone?". Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  13. 1 2 3 "North Korean Women Sold in China". Radio Free Asia.
  14. 1 2 3 "Thousands of North Korean Women Sold as Slaves in China". Radio Free Asia.
  15. "South Korean subsidies encourage foreign 'bride buying'". The Daily Star. 2019-02-18.
  16. Jones, Gavin; Shen, Hsiu-hua (2008-02-01). "International marriage in East and Southeast Asia: trends and research emphases". Citizenship Studies. 12 (1): 9–25. doi:10.1080/13621020701794091. ISSN   1362-1025. S2CID   145510675.
  17. 1 2 "Mate-in-Vietnam Marriages | YaleGlobal Online". Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  18. Linh, Trần Giang; Hồng, Khuất Thu; Bélanger, Danièle (2013). "Transnational Marriages between Vietnamese Women and Asian Men in Vietnamese Online Media". Journal of Vietnamese Studies. 8 (2): 81–114. doi:10.1525/vs.2013.8.2.81. hdl: 20.500.11794/11588 . ISSN   1559-372X.
  19. 1 2 3 Rubin, About the Author Zoe (2014-12-05). "The Wife Market". The Yale Globalist. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  20. 1 2 3 or empty |title= (help)
  21. Hodal, Kate (2017-08-26). "'I hope you're ready to get married': in search of Vietnam's kidnapped brides". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  22. Chiwese, Manase. "Wives at the Market Place:Commercialisation of Lobola and Commodification of Women's bodies in Zimbabwe".
  23. Pearsall, Marion (1947). "Distributional Variations of Bride-Wealth in the East African Cattle Area". Southwestern Journal of Anthropology. 3 ((Spring, 1947)): 15–31 (17 pages). doi:10.1086/soutjanth.3.1.3628532.
  24. Tiwana, Dalip (1968). Eho Hamara Jeevna.
  25. Aulakh, Ajmer (2014). Ik Ramayan Hor Ate Hor Ikangi.
  26. Zug, Marcia A. (2016). Buying a Bride:An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches. New York: New York University Press. ISBN   978-0-8147-7181-5.
  27. Enss, Chris (2012). Object: Matrimony: The Risky Business Of Mail-Order Matchmaking On The Western Frontier. ISBN   978-0762773992.
  28. Ngo Tat To (1995). Tat den: tieu thuyet (Tai ban ed.). TP. Ho Chi Minh: Van nghe Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh.
  29. "Buying the Bride". Retrieved 2019-02-21.

Further reading