Drafters should consider whether to adopt a specific law on international marriage brokering. At a minimum, laws must protect a woman’s right to choose when, if and who she marries. In the absence of a specific law governing international marriage brokering, states may need to rely on a complex web of immigration, contract, family, criminal and private international laws. Drafters should realize these laws may overlook the specific needs and vulnerabilities of a mail order bride. For example, visa regulations that treat foreign fiancées as undocumented immigrants if they fail to marry within a certain timeframe place the fiancée in a vulnerable position by making her dependent on her fiancé.
Should drafters decide to adopt a specific law to address international marriage brokering, laws must reflect the dynamics of international marriages that create inequities between the woman and man. In a mail order marriage, or an international marriage facilitated through a broker, a woman may have consented to marry a person from another country. Yet, these women may lack critical background information about their foreign fiancés and therefore not be fully informed when they give their consent. Once inside the host country, these women are prime targets for domestic abuse due to their isolation, their unfamiliarity with the host country’s laws and agencies, potential language barriers, fear of deportation or retaliation from their spouse. They may even become trapped in a situation of slavery, domestic servitude or debt bondage. (Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005)
When developing a law on international marriage brokering, drafters should evaluate whether to regulate or prohibit the industry. Should drafters choose to regulate the industry, laws should establish an accreditation system for agencies that facilitate international marriage brokering. Laws should establish minimum standards to regulate the industry, which may include charging reasonable fees, ensuring that online agency site owners are clearly identifiable and requiring site users to identify themselves, monitoring marriages and providing an emergency contact number. Agencies should be compelled to conduct background checks on the male to verify he does not have a criminal record. (See: Domestic slavery: servitude, au pairs and mail-order brides), Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2004) Drafters should incorporate an additional measure that requires agencies to provide the histories of prospective bridegrooms to the foreign woman. (See also: Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls)