AF3IRM, formerly Gabriela Network, announced today a campaign for legislation to classify the murder of "mail-order-brides" as a hate crime, in recognition of the racism and sexism embedded in the impunity with which such homecides are done by husbands/intimate partners.
According to Secretary-General Jollene Levid, also lead initiator of AF3IRM, "the lopsided sentences given to men convicted of such crimes for manslaughter, despite often premeditation, relegate foreign-born wives to virtual second-class citizenship in the US. This traumatizes the children of such marriages and often results in self-hatred and denial of half of their ancestral legacy. It is a crime that has repercussions society at large. It is a crime that reverberates for all transnational women, as it sets a standard of impunity for violence against foreign-born women."
For 10 years, AF3IRM, formerly known as Gabriela Network, has waged the Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of Filipino women and children. From the campaign's inception, AF3IRM has named imperialism as the root cause of women becoming commodities on the world market and has included mail-order brides in the category of the trafficked: women pushed by both economic and feudal social pressure to sell themselves via penpal, and now online "match services," to men in advanced capitalist countries. Ten years after launching the Purple Rose campaign, AF3IRM raises its demand to end the exploitation of women and children by calling on the United States government to classify the murder of mail-order brides as a hate crime.
At least 20,000 women leave the Philippines each year as mail-order brides. Facing unemployment, militarization, and inflation, and compelled by an often-impossible family obligation, Filipinas look to becoming mail-order brides as a way of meeting both economic and familial responsibility.
On the other hand, the men who look to find mail-order brides "have control in mind more than a loving, enduring relationship," says David Jedlicka, who conducted a survey of men looking for brides. "These women are bought with the expectation that they will be subservient," he added.
Mail-order brides face powerlessness in their relationships: oceans away from their families, facing racism and language barriers, lacking access to support networks, services, and dependent on their spouses for economic resources and their citizenship/residency in the countries they land in. Many have been killed and have yet to see justice. Abusive men who bought their brides face manslaughter or abuse charges, if they are prosecuted at all. Women like Susana Remerata Blackwell, Estelita Reeves, and Anastasia Solovieva King were murdered by their husbands. There is no research or attempt by the US government to measure the extent of the abuse mail-order brides face: cases come to the public's attention only when it is too late.
AF3IRM, which helped lobby for the passage of International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) in 2005 that requires "matchmaking" services to screen the men who purchase brides, believes that these measures fall short. AF3IRM thus calls on the U.S. government to classify the murder of mail-order brides as a hate crime against immigrant and women of color.
Across the country, AF3IRM will be conducting public events to heighten awareness of the plight of mail-order brides and building pressure on the U.S. government, complicit in the commodification of mail-order brides, to classify their subsequent murders as hate crimes.