Activists protesting for reproductive rights and access to safe abortions. Click the image to learn more about the harm of illegal abortions.
Abortion in the Philippines
The Philippines is currently a Roman Catholic society that condemns pre-marital sex and “artificial” birth control. Abortion is highly illegal for women and the providers. In 2008- when the idea for The Mango Bride first began- 17% of the 3.4 million pregnancies were terminated. Many of the abortions were unregulated and conducted by non-clinicians. Of the 17%, 1,000 women died and 90,000 were hospitalized due to complications or infections. In America, the fight for safe and legal access to abortions relies a lot on the argument of rape and incest, while those are true and extremely valid reasons for getting an abortion, The Mango Bride highlights the variety of reasons abortion are necessary. Although they may not come off as “extreme” as the rape or incest, they are equally justifiable. In an interview with Filipina/o young adults regarding abortion, reasons and methods of obtaining an abortion became clear.
- Reasons: Could not afford another child. Did not want to go through another pregnancy due to its effect on their physical and mental health. Did not want a child with their current partner who is abusive
- Methods: Hilot (massage), Bitter herbs, Over the counter drugs (Cortal, Biogesic, Alaxan, Gardan) taken in high quantities with a warm and clear soft drink.
Gaba/Karma: The belief in Karma has strong influence in the decisions Filipina/o men and women make. Women who attempted or completed an abortion were viewed as deserving of any misfortune or bad karma that came to them. Fear of bad Karma is strong enough to convince some women not to attempt an abortion. Issues such as rape, incest, or maternal health are not considered to be a “good enough” reason for abortion. This is due to the views on virginity and purity being highly valued so abortion is deemed a “double-sin” because the women participated in premarital sex and abortion.
Jessica D. Gipson, Alanna E. Hirz, and Josephine L. Avila. “Perceptions of and Practices of Illegal Abortion among Urban Young Adults in the Philippines: A Qualitative Study” Population Council, 2011.
The Mail Order Bride (MOB) industry first began in the form of a magazine catalog but the later moved to websites as the internet grew and provided a more accessible market. MOB sites advertise women as submissive, dependent, and deferential in order to appeal to their American male consumers who value “traditional qualities”. The women have to provide their entire background history (family, education, career) as well as personal information (breast-waist size, height/weight). The only information provided about the men is what the costumer decides to tell. They [the consumer] have complete control over what is/isn’t said about them on the site. While site managers say that they are “encouraged” to share personal information, they are not required to share any criminal history with the women/brides.
Many sites will still accept the male applicant even after admitting a history of abuse. This leads to dangerous informational and power imbalances between the consumers and the brides. These imbalances are perpetuated by the MOB industry’s willingness to provide service to violent men. These sites devalue women by reducing them down to their physical descriptors, and what they are able to “provide” for their future husbands. These women can be sold for less than $15,000.
Houston Based MOB site advertises “foreign fiancees are not tainted by the perversions that feminism has wreaked on the American family. Unlike American women, who are belligerent, angry, selfish, and confused”
Julie Pehar. “E-Brides. The Mail Order Industry and the Internet” Downsview, 2003.
Domestic Violence and Mail Order Brides
“As far as sponsoring your alien fiancee, the government couldn’t care less if you are Jack the Ripper, as long as you’re out of jail, you’re free to marry. As far as bitches go, I think I understand. They assert that “No” means “No” except when they’re nagging, in which case, “No” means, ‘Keep nagging and try to get beaten’ I think the language barrier actually helps here; its hard to squawk through a language barrier.”– MOB site representative
By knowingly placing women in potentially dangerous situations, the MOB industry has exacerbated the informational imbalance that already contributes to the probability of DV. Economic and Social Power Imbalances are extremely prevalent in these relationships due to the bride’s reliance on their abuser to provide them housing, food, clothing, and possible permanent residency .
“I got married to this American and when I was brought in here, in America, it was also a very shocking thing to me because in the letters it was one thing, absolutely, and when we came here we were put to live in a garage. That’s all. The garage was cold, and that is how my child and I lived. That was my marriage.”
Cultural differences, language barriers, and the MOB’s lack of social and support networks in America (in addition to the harmful image of the submissive wife) create a situation in which DV is very real.
“He did not want me to go to work, he wanted me to stay home. And on another side, he would not want to give me any money. It turns out that I depend on him, like on a short leash. If I had to buy some stamps to send a letter, I had to ask him. And if I needed, I am sorry, to buy underwear, I also had to ask. I could not live like that, it was so disgusting.”
Due to their immigration status, many MOB’s cannot work under constant threat of deportation from their abuser. Due to the language barrier many immigrant women face, they are unable to access information regarding social services and support. This problem relies on the services set up for victims of DV to expand their cultural competency. Programs should have translators more easily available, and should not have to rely on a third-party who is not trained in DV to relay the information for them, much like Soliven did in her personal career, as well as Amparo in the novel. Social services fall short in their support by not being able to provide proper protection for immigrants, whether that is because they don’t have the necessary legal information, or their unwillingness to help due to implicit racial bias.
Kirsten Lindee. “Love, Honor, or Control: Domestic Violence, Trafficking, and the Question of How to Regulate the Mail Order Bride Industry” Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 2007.
Sudha Shetty and Janice Kaguyutan “Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence: Cultural Challenges and Available Legal Protections” VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women, 2002.
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Veronika Lynch ’19