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Groups Join for Cambodian, Foreign Brides in Taiwan

Five women's groups will stage a demonstration in front of Taiwan's Foreign Affairs building later this month to demand easier naturalization for the country's foreign brides.

More than 5,000 Cambodian women are married to Taiwanese nationals, but the barriers for naturalization are too high for them to become citizens, said Y Say Hun, a Cambodian rights advocate in Taipei.

The Taiwanese government has four possibilities for would-be citizens, she said. A person can deposit 400,000 Taiwan dollars in the bank; have a job earning more the 32,000 Taiwan dollars; own a house worth 5 million Taiwan dollars or more; or finish 72 hours of a Chinese-language class.

These barriers are too high for most foreign brides, which include women from Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Thailand, China and the Philippines, Y Say Hun said. Even the language classes prove too difficult for the women, most of whom come from backgrounds with little education in their own countries.

"No Cambodian brides can fit these conditions," she said. "The minimum wage in Taiwan is 28,000 [Taiwan dollars], but for us they only pay 15,000 to 18,000 [Taiwan dollars]. We don't have 400,000 to deposit, we don't own houses and we can't read Chinese writing."

Women's groups for each nationality have joined together to demand the conditions be easier, to provide more rights to brides, who often find themselves alone and in abusive situations. They will protest for a third time Sept. 9 if the government does not consider lowering the requirements for citizenship.

That the women are legally married makes their cases different than trafficking cases, said Ung Kantha Phavy, the Cambodian Minister of Women's Affairs.

"These women married Taiwanese men," she said. "I'm aware of the abuse and violence by Taiwanese husbands. I'll bring this case to discuss with the Cambodian government."

Y Say Hun said many of the marriages are fake, leading women into forced labor or prostitution.