Note: the article was originally written in Mandarin Chinese, please see here.
English translation: Eden Social Welfare Foundation
Imagine, if you are a Vietnamese woman marrying a Taiwanese, what are you going to do?
First of all, you need to go to the Taiwanese representative office in your home country to have a face-to-face interview with a representative. If everything goes well, you will be able to process your spousal visa application. However, possibly you will be rejected because the representative suspected that you are not being honest and said different things from your husband in Taiwan. Everything goes down from there.
“There are more than 50 thousand foreign spouses in Taiwan. A lot of them came to Taiwan not only because of love or romance, but also because of the impact from liberalism in the era of globalization. Marriage migration can be seen as a way to ‘marry up’ in terms of ethnic, gender and social class; also refers as ‘spatial hypergamy’,” said executive secretary of TransAsia Sisters Association, Liang Tsu-Ying.
Because of the rising female consciousness, a lot of blue-collar class men are facing difficulties finding a wife to bear children for them. Due to globalization, many of them turn to female in developing countries where their economic and social class situations are underprivileged.
It has become more and more common in the Taiwanese society that many Taiwanese men are marrying to women from south eastern Asian countries, such as Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. The biggest population of Taiwanese’ foreign spouses are from Vietnam.
Nevertheless, because of the stereotype ascending from the concept of “marrying up” from a relatively less developed country, many foreign spouses from the south eastern Asian countries have been continuously facing discriminations from the beginning until and after they move and live in Taiwan.
Photo Credit: 賴可人@Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
The inappropriate and discriminative system for cross-border marriage
The Taiwanese system for foreign marriage is riddled with inefficiencies.
There is a list of countries where their citizens are required to have a “marriage interview” before marrying a Taiwanese from a third country. The interviewers do not even receive proper training before they start doing their jobs for “preventing possible cross border crimes caused from cross border marriages”.
“This list is very racist and discriminative. Why do you put this country on the list instead of the other? They do not provide an explanation and it does not make sense,” said Liang, indicating that the choosing process for the list is inappropriate.
The other ridiculous part in the system is the nationality law.
Every marriage might encounter different problems; it does not matter if you marry a Taiwanese or a foreigner. Problems can evolve even after the couples get children. However, if a foreign spouse wants to divorce before she/he obtains their identity cards, her/his status in Taiwan will become a visitor. Their only hope is to win custody cases. They are forced to leave Taiwan and their children when they lose the case. Even when they win the case, when the child turns to 20-year-old, if they do not successfully prove they are financially well, they also will be forced to leave Taiwan.
Sometimes, when you finally get your identity card after going through all hardships, the National Immigration Agency of the Ministry of the Interior still has the right to deprive them of their identities for “improper behaviors”. For foreign spouses, this might lead them to become a stateless person because they already gave up their home country nationalities.
“Many foreign spouses suffer and tolerate violence because they have to get their identity cards,” said Liang, and further indicated that the determinations of “improper behaviors” are also patriarchal. “No country in the world would deprive a person’s national identity because of adultery.”
These unfair laws and inequitable system result in stereotypes and discriminations toward foreign spouses in Taiwan, especially those from south eastern Asian countries.
It is necessary to improve the Taiwanese law and system with regards to foreign marriage so that they will not fall victim to prejudice.
According to the Department of Household registration of the Ministry of Interior, there are around half a million immigrants in Taiwan, including those migrated here for work or who married with Taiwanese. As Eden often worked with underprivileged families and people with disabilities, we found out that many of people with disabilities have foreign spouses, whom often encounter difficulties adapting to the Taiwanese life styles without helps.
Thus, since 2002, Eden has established a division to care for foreign spouses and started serving immigrants families. Eden also actively promotes education for immigrant children by working with private sectors to host summer workshops since the second generation immigrants started growing up. Multi-culture, science and observation, social interaction, teamwork, social services, parent-children philanthropic co-learning are some of the themes Eden incorporated into the summer workshops.
Eden hopes these immigrant children can get a taste of the cultures of different countries; learn the spirit of teamwork and the courage to challenge themselves through our activities. Moreover, Eden also worked with churches and local community development organizations to offer after school tutoring for underprivileged children.