Bride buying

Bride-buying, also referred to as bride-purchasing, is the industry or trade of purchasing a bride as a form of property. This enables the bride to be resold or repurchased at the buyer’s discretion. This practice continues to have a firm foothold in parts of the world such as China, India, Korea, Vietnam and Africa. Described as a form of marriage of convenience, the practice is illegal in many countries.


One of the first recorded instances of bride-buying can be traced back to 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia.[1] The first Jamestown settlers were exclusively European males,[2] historian Alf J. Mapp Jr believes this could be due to the belief that "...women had no place in the grim and often grisly business of subduing a continent..."[3] With stories of famine, disease and dissension, the European women feared that leaving England and traveling to the colony would be of great risk. Unable to find wives, many men chose to desert the colony. In order to cease desertion, colony leaders sent advertisements back to Europe, pleading for women to immigrate to the colony. Trying to persuade potential brides to come to Jamestown proved to be difficult, however, 17th-century marriage obstacles proved to be beneficial to the men of the colony. Attaining a home and constructing domestic household in Europe was costly. If not born into wealth, most people would need to obtain significant savings before being able to wed. The majority of working-class Englishwomen turned to domestic service to acquire the necessary funds to marry and martial immigration offered an enticing alternative to what otherwise would be years doing remedial work for meager pay. The Virginia Company offered women who chose to leave England in favor of the colony generous incentives such as linens, clothing, a plot of land, and their choice of husband. After a husband was chosen, he would then pay the Virginia Company with 150 pounds of "good leaf" tobacco (which is equivalent to roughly $5000 USD in today's currency) to pay for their brides passage to the colony. This is how the Jamestown brides earned themselves the nickname the "tobacco brides."[4]

Mail-order Brides

One of the most common forms of modern-day bride-buying is mail-order brides. It is estimated that there are 90 agencies that deal with the selling and purchasing of mail order brides. [5] These agencies have websites that list the addresses, pictures, names and biographies of up to 25,000 women that are seeking husbands, with American husbands being the most common preference. While there are women listen on these sites from all over the world, the majority of mail-order brides come from Russia and the Philippines. According to these agencies, 10% of women who choose to become mail-order brides are successful and find a husband through their services. The agencies also state that there around 10,000 mail-order marriages a year, with about 4,000 of these marriages involving men in the United States.

Bride-buying in Asia


Bride-buying is an old tradition in China.[6] The practice was largely stamped out by the Chinese Communists. However, the modern practice is "not unusual in rural villages"; it is also known as mercenary marriage.[7] According to Ding Lu of the non-governmental organization All-China Women's Federation, the practice had a resurgence due to China’s surging economy.[6] From 1991 to 1996, Chinese police rescued upwards of 88,000 women and children who had been sold into marriage and slavery, and the Chinese government claimed that 143,000 traffickers involved were caught and prosecuted. Some human rights groups state that these figures are not correct and that the real number of abducted women is higher. Bay Fang and Mark Leong reported in U.S. News & World Report that "the government sees the commerce in wives as a shameful problem, it has only in recent years begun to provide any statistics, and it tries to put the focus on the women who have been saved rather than on the continuing trade."[8] Causes include poverty and bride shortage in the rural areas (rural women go to the cities to work).[6] As women leave rural areas to find work in cities, they are considered more vulnerable to being "tricked or forced into becoming chattel for men desperate for wives."[8] The shortage of brides in turn is due to amplification of the traditional preference of Chinese couples for sons by the 1979 one-child policy in China.[6] The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that in 1998 there were 120 men for every 100 women, with imbalances in rural areas being about 130 males for every 100 females. The increase in the cost of dowries is also a contributing factor leading men to buy women for wives. Human Rights in China states that it is more affordable for a man to buy a wife from a trafficker for 2,000 to 4,000 yuan than to pay a traditional dowry, which often runs upwards of 10,000 yuan. For the average urban worker, wife selling is an affordable option when in 1998 China urban workers make approximately $60 a month.[8] Brides for sale are outsourced from countries such as Burma, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea. The bride-traders sell women as brides or as prostitutes depending on their physical appearance. A common trick employed by bride-brokers in acquiring brides for sale is the offer of a job such as in factories and instead kidnapping them. Bride-traders can sell a young woman for the price of $250 to $800USD. US$50 to US$100 of the original price goes to the primary kidnappers while the rest of the income goes to the traffickers who bring the bride to the main client.[6]

Chinese women, who are bought as wive, who bear children are more prone to staying withing the marriage. Fang Yuzhu of the China Women's Federation credits it with a "strong sense of duty" that Chinese women have, and the idea that it is shameful to leave their husband. Yuzhu also credits that some women might consider their forced marriage a better option to the life of poverty and hard labor they would be subject to upon returning home or the idea that some women may not feel they can find another husband, since they "have already been with one".[8]


Bride-buying is an old practice in many regions in India.[9] Bride-purchasing is common in the states of India such as Haryana, Jharkhand,[10] and Punjab.[9] According to CNN-IBN, women are “bought, sold, trafficked, raped and married off without consent” [11] across certain parts of India. Bride-purchases are usually outsourced from Bihar, Assam, and West Bengal. The price of the bride (locally known as paros in Jharkhand), if bought from the sellers, may cost between 4,000 and 30,000 Indian rupees, which is the equivalent of $88 to $660USD.[10] The brides' parents are normally paid an average of 500 to 1,000 Indian rupees (around $11 to $22USD). The need to purchase a bride arises from the low female-to-male ratio. Such low ratio was caused by the preference to give birth sons instead of daughters, and female foeticide.[12] In 2006, according to BBC News, there were around 861 women for every 1,000 men in Haryana; and the national ratio in India as a whole was 927 women for every 1,000 men. Women are not only purchased as brides or wives, but also as farm workers or househelp. Most women become “sex-slaves[10] or forced laborers[11] who are later resold to human traffickers[10] to defray the cost.[11]

According to Punjabi writer Kirpal Kazak, bride-selling began in Jharkhand after the arrival of the Rajputs. The tribe decorate the women for sale with ornaments. The practice of the sale of women as brides declined after the Green Revolution in India, the “spread of literacy”, and the improvement of the male-female ratio since 1911. The ratio, however, declined in 2001. The practice of bride-purchasing became confined to the poor sections of society such as farmers, Scheduled Castes, and tribes. In poverty-stricken families, only one son gets married due to poverty and to “avoid the division of landed property”.[9]


Bride-buying in North Korea is most common due to the great poverty the country suffers and the citizens taking many risks to leave the country.[13] Human traffickers take this as an opportunity to traffic desperate North Korean women across the country borders to China not often to sell as slaves, but mainly as brides. Upon arrival and wedlock, the women are said to be forced into labor, or sexual and physical abuse by their Chinese husbands.[14] Although, there are successful marriages, they hardly ever last because of the illegality of North Korean citizens crossing the border without authorization, despite the women having been in the country for many years neither them or their offspring are granted citizenship.[13][14] As a result, they are arrested and sent back to their homeland or kept in China to face the consequences of trespassing.[14] Institutions around the world are requesting China to give refuge to the great number of people who fled North Korea seeking shelter, however the solicitation has not yet been approved of.[13] In South Korea, bride-buying is not as common as it is in North Korea, though it still exists in varied ways. The majority of the brides bought in South Korea are from different parts of Asia, largely from the southeast side, in addition bride buying internationally in South Korea is claimed to be encouraged as a result of the population declining.[15]


Bride-buying in Vietnam has progressed illicitly, becoming the most debauched commercialized industry in recent history, especially around the northern mountain provinces bordering China.[16] Virgin Vietnamese women, from 18 to 25 years old particularly, are targeted by several third-parties known as the quickie matchmaking agencies for East and Southeast Asian men from South Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Singapore.[17][18] Virginity is considered the most valuable trait in this business as virgin Vietnamese women are often purchased at a higher price point.[19] The price ranges differ among agencies; packages are valued between $5000[19] and $22,000USD[17] which includes a wedding, a visa, a health examination test, and a language course.[19] According to surveys conducted in Korea, 65% of the Vietnamese respondents only completed primary or lower secondary school.[20] This lack of education can explain the poor social knowledge that allows this industry to grow.[20] Vietnamese women prostitute themselves to foreigners. By selling sex for visas they are introduced to new duties which include labor and domestic servitude.[21] The aforementioned quickie agencies usually group three to five men together to search for Vietnamese wives. This grouping of potential customers generates more profit, saving the organization approximately 50 to 60% in fees estimated to be around $85,000USD per trip.[20]

Bride-buying in Africa

One thing many individuals in Africa disagree on is bride-buying. In Africa, bride-buying tends to work out against women's best interest, causing many to feel a sense of gender inequality as well as a lack in the women's rights sector.[22] In East Africa, some marriages involve transfer of valuable properties that are delivered from the families of the groom and gifted to the families of the bride. Certain phrases like bride-pricing, dowry, bride-wealth, and some indigenous words: "lobolo", "mala", "bogadi", and "chiko" all make up different codes of bride purchases.[23]


Literature that delves into the selling women as brides includes titles such as Eho Hamara Jeevna[24] by Punjabi novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana, the play Ik Hor Ramayan[25] by playwright Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Buying a Bride:An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches[26] by Marcia A. Zug, Object: Matrimony: The Risky Business Of Mail-Order Matchmaking On The Western Frontier[27] by Chris Enss, the epic Vietnamese poem The Tale of Kieu by Nguyễn Du, the novel Tat Den by Ngo Tat To,[28] and the novel Buying the Bride by Penny Wylder.[29]

See also


  1. ^ Rioseco, Hanna (May 14, 2018). "The Real Housewives of Jamestown". Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  2. ^ "The First Residents of Jamestown". NPS. February 26, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  3. ^ "The Indispensable Role of Women at Jamestown". NPS. February 26, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  4. ^ Zug, Marcia (2016-08-31). "The Mail-Order Brides of Jamestown, Virginia" (PDF). The Atlantic: 1–7.
  5. ^ Scholes, Robert (April 1, 1997). "How Many Mail-Order Brides?". Immigration Reveiw. 28: 7–10.
  6. ^ a b c d e Marshall, Samantha, Joanne Lee-Young, and Matt Forney, Vietnamese Women Are Kidnapped and Later Sold in China as Brides, in The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, 1999.
  7. ^ Mercenary Marriages Cause Turmoil in C China (Xinhua), in China Daily USA, section China, subsection Hot Issues, updated Sep. 2, 2011, 10:46p, as accessed Nov. 9 & 11, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d Fang, Bay; Leong, Mark (1998). "China's stolen wives". U.S. News & World Report. 125 (14): 35. Retrieved 17 October 2011.(subscription required)
  9. ^ a b c Dhaliwal, Sarbjit. Bride-buying an old practice in north India, Tribune News Service, August 17,
  10. ^ a b c d Agal, Renu. India's 'bride buying' country, BBC News, April 2006
  11. ^ a b c Sharma, Kavitta and Divya Shah. Only in India: cheaper to buy bride than raise daughter, CNN-IBN,
  12. ^ Gierstorfer, Carl (September 11, 2013). "Where Have India's Females Gone?". Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  13. ^ a b c "North Korean Women Sold in China". Radio Free Asia.
  14. ^ a b c "Thousands of North Korean Women Sold as Slaves in China". Radio Free Asia.
  15. ^ "South Korean subsidies encourage foreign 'bride buying'". The Daily Star.
  16. ^ Jones, Gavin; Shen, Hsiu-hua (2008-02-01). "International marriage in East and Southeast Asia: trends and research emphases". Citizenship Studies. 12 (1): 9–25. doi:10.1080/13621020701794091. ISSN 1362-1025.
  17. ^ a b "Mate-in-Vietnam Marriages | YaleGlobal Online". Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  18. ^ Linh, Trần Giang; Hồng, Khuất Thu; Bélanger, Danièle. "Transnational Marriages between Vietnamese Women and Asian Men in Vietnamese Online Media". Journal of Vietnamese Studies. 8 (2): 81–114. ISSN 1559-372X.
  19. ^ a b c Rubin, About the Author Zoe (2014-12-05). "The Wife Market". The Yale Globalist. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  20. ^ a b c Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Hodal, Kate (2017-08-26). "'I hope you're ready to get married': in search of Vietnam's kidnapped brides". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  22. ^ Chiwese, Manase. "Wives at the Market Place:Commercialisation of Lobola and Commodification of Women's bodies in Zimbabwe".
  23. ^ Pearsall, Marion. "Distributional Variations of Bride-Wealth in the East African Cattle Area". Southwestern Journal of Anthropology. 3 ((Spring, 1947)): 15–31 (17 pages).
  24. ^ Tiwana, Dalip (1968). Eho Hamara Jeevna.
  25. ^ Aulakh, Ajmer (2014). Ik Ramayan Hor Ate Hor Ikangi.
  26. ^ Zug, Marcia A. (2016). Buying a Bride:An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-7181-5.
  27. ^ Enss, Chris (2012). Object: Matrimony: The Risky Business Of Mail-Order Matchmaking On The Western Frontier. ISBN 978-0762773992.
  28. ^ Ngo Tat To (1995). Tat den: tieu thuyet (Tai ban ed.). TP. Ho Chi Minh: Van nghe Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh.
  29. ^ "Buying the Bride". Retrieved 2019-02-21.

Further reading

Bazaar (1982 film)

Bazaar (Hindi: बाज़ार; English: Market) is a 1982 Indian drama film directed by Sagar Sarhadi and starring Naseeruddin Shah, Farooq Shaikh, Smita Patil and Supriya Pathak. The film set in Hyderabad, India, highlights the issue of bride buying in India, through the tragedy of a young girl being sold by needy parents to affluent expartraite Indians in the Gulf.The film has sterling performances from almost all the cast and is akin to some other movies in the 1980s which highlighted oppression by the rich and powerful. Bazaar ('marketplace') is a realistic portrayal and highlights a system which is difficult to change.

Chukri System

The Chukri System is a debt bondage or forced labour system found in Kidderpore and other parts of West Bengal. Under this system a female can be coerced into prostitution in order to pay off debts. She generally works without pay for one year or longer in order to repay a supposed debt to the brothel owner for food, clothes, make-up, and living expenses.The system creates a workforce of people virtually enslaved to their creditors, and constitutes one of the primary causes for women entering the sex trade. The system flourishes primarily in West Bengal or Calcutta. The name is used also in Bangladesh.

Compensated emancipation

Compensated emancipation was a method of ending slavery in countries where slavery was legal. This involved the person who was recognized as the owner of a slave being compensated monetarily or by a period of labor (an "apprenticeship") for releasing the slave.The latter was chosen as a compromise between slavery and outright emancipation, the former slaves receiving a nominal salary, while still being bound in their labors for a period of time. This succeeded in many countries and the U.S. District of Columbia, but proved unpopular in the pre-Civil-War Southern United States, as for the slaves it amounted to little more than continued mandatory servitude, while it placed an added burden of wages on the former owner.

Customary land

Customary land is land which is owned by indigenous communities and administered in accordance with their customs, as opposed to statutory tenure usually introduced during the colonial periods. Common ownership is one form of customary land ownership.

Since the late 20th century, statutory recognition and protection of indigenous and community land rights continues to be a major challenge. The gap between formally recognized and customarily held and managed land is a significant source of underdevelopment, conflict, and environmental degradation.In the Malawi Land Act of 1965, "Customary Land" is defined as "all land which is held, occupied or used under customary law, but does not include any public land". In most countries of the Pacific islands, customary land remains the dominant land tenure form. Distinct customary systems of tenure have evolved on different islands and areas within the Pacific region. In any country there may be many different types of customary tenure.The amount of customary land ownership out of the total land area of Pacific island nations is the following: 97% in Papua New Guinea, 90% in Vanuatu, 88% in Fiji, 87% in the Solomon Islands, and 81% in Samoa.

Danish slave trade

Danish slave trade occurred separately in two different periods, the trade in enslaved European people during the Viking Age from the 8th to 10th century and the Danish role in trading enslaved African people during the Atlantic slave trade from the 1600s until a 1792 law to abolish the trade came into effect on 1 January 1803. Slavery continued in the Danish West Indies until July 1848 when all unfree people were emancipated.

Debt bondage in India

Debt bondage in India or Bandhua Mazdoori (बंधुआ मज़दूरी) was legally abolished in 1976 but it remains prevalent, with weak enforcement of the law by governments. Bonded labour involves the exploitive interlinking of credit and labour agreements that devolve into slave-like exploitation due to severe power imbalances between the lender and the borrower.The rise of Dalit activism, government legislation starting as early as 1949, as well as ongoing work by NGOs and government offices to enforce labour laws and rehabilitate those in debt, appears to have contributed to the reduction of bonded labour in India. However, according to research papers presented by the International Labour Organization, there are still many obstacles to the eradication of bonded labour in India.


Figging is the practice of inserting a piece of skinned ginger root into the human anus or the vagina in order to generate an acute burning sensation. Historically this was a method of punishment, but has since been adopted as a practice of BDSM. The term "figging" comes from the 19th-century word "feaguing."

Guðríður Símonardóttir

Guðríður Símonardóttir (1598 – December 18, 1682) was an Icelandic woman who was one of 242 people abducted from the Westman Islands, Iceland in 1627 in a raid by Barbary pirates. These raids came to be known as the Turkish abductions and Guðríður became known as Tyrkja-Gudda. After being held as a slave and concubine for nearly a decade, she was one of a few captives ransomed by the Danish king. She returned to Iceland, marrying the young pastor Hallgrímur Pétursson, who became known for his poetry and hymns.

House slave

A house slave was a slave who worked, and often lived, in the house of the slave-owner. House slaves had many duties such as cooking, cleaning, serving meals, and caring for children.

International Drama Festival in Tokyo

The International Drama Festival in Tokyo (国際ドラマフェスティバル in TOKYO), is an annual award show for excellence in television drama production based in Tokyo, Japan.


A kholop (Russian: холо́п, IPA: [xɐˈlop]) was a feudally dependent person in Russia between the 10th and early 18th centuries. Their legal status was close to that of slaves.


Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women (Hindi: मातृभूमि, translation: Motherland) is a 2003 Indian dystopian tragedy film written and directed by Manish Jha. The film examines the impact of female foeticide and female infanticide on the gender balance and consequently the stability and attitudes of society. Its storyline bears some resemblance to real-life instances of gender imbalance and economics resulting in fraternal polyandry and bride buying in some parts of India. It depicts a future in an Indian village populated exclusively by males due to female infanticide over the years.Matrubhoomi received widespread critical acclaim and was shown at festivals through 2003, including the 2003 Venice Film Festival, where it was presented in the Critic's Week (Parallel Sections) and later awarded the FIPRESCI Award "For it's [sic] important theme on women's issues and female infanticide handled with sensitivity by a first-time director".

Slave Trade Act

Slave Trade Act is a stock short title used for legislation in the United Kingdom and the United States that relates to the slave trade.

The "See also" section lists other Slave Acts, laws, and international conventions which developed the concept of slavery, and then the resolution and abolition of slavery.

Slave catcher

Fugitive slave catchers were people who returned escaped slaves to their owners in the United States before slavery was abolished during the American Civil War.

Slave name

A slave name is the personal name given by others to an enslaved person, or a name inherited from enslaved ancestors. The modern use of the term applies mostly to African Americans and West Indians who are descended from enslaved Africans who retain their name given to their ancestors by the enslavers.

Changing from a slave name to a name embodying an African identity became common after emancipation in the 1960s by those in the African diaspora in the Americas seeking a reconnection to their African cultural roots.

Slavery in Seychelles

Abolition of slavery in Seychelles was a gradual process that became increasingly powerful in the early nineteenth century and finalized in 1835.

Slavery in South Africa

Slavery in South Africa existed until the abolition of slavery in 1834.

Tangible property

Tangible property in law is, literally, anything which can be touched, and includes both real property and personal property (or moveable property), and stands in distinction to intangible property.In English law and some Commonwealth legal systems, items of tangible property are referred to as choses in possession (or a chose in possession in the singular). However, some property, despite being physical in nature, is classified in many legal systems as intangible property rather than tangible property because the rights associated with the physical item are of far greater significance than the physical properties. Principally, these are documentary intangibles. For example, a promissory note is a piece of paper that can be touched, but the real significance is not the physical paper, but the legal rights which the paper confers, and hence the promissory note is defined by the legal debt rather than the physical attributes.A unique category of property is money, which in some legal systems is treated as tangible property and in others as intangible property. Whilst most countries legal tender is expressed in the form of intangible property ("The Treasury of Country X hereby promises to pay to the bearer on demand...."), in practice banknotes are now rarely ever redeemed in any country, which has led to banknotes and coins being classified as tangible property in most modern legal systems.


A thrall (Old Norse/Icelandic: þræll, Faroese: trælur, Norwegian: trell, Danish: træl, Swedish: träl) was a slave or serf in Scandinavian lands during the Viking Age. The corresponding term in Old English was þēow. The status of slave (þræll, þēow) contrasts with that of the freeman (karl, ceorl) and the nobleman (jarl, eorl). The Middle Latin rendition of the term in early Germanic law is servus. The social system of serfdom was continued in medieval feudalism.

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