Professor Su-Lin Yu and supporting professors from the National Cheng Kung University’s Center for Gender & Women’s Studies are collaborating with 11 female scholars from Hong Kong, Macau and Japan to launch the “Marriage Migrants in Asia” project, which has been recognized by the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) as one of the 14 most influential projects of 2018.
Through the conscientious efforts of these knowledgeable women, this unprecedented cross-national collaborative project aims to collect and analyze data acquired from field interviews and historical records. Social-statistics methods will be used to draw comparisons and initiate discussions regarding the findings from the project. The end goal is a holistic understanding of marriage migrants in Asia. The project will provide useful reference material for policymakers around the world.
Founded in 2000, the WUN is the world’s most robust alliance of research-intensive universities. As a leading global higher education network, the WUN focuses on solving global issues. Su-Lin Yu is a professor at National Cheng Kung University. Unable to ignore the plight of marriage migrants, Yu gathered professors from the NCKU Center for Gender & Women’s Studies, including Kai-ling Liu, Mei-tzu Tsai, Tiffany Hsu, Wei-ming Luh, and Le-kun Tan. She also reached out to professors from abroad, including Hsun-hui Tseng from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Susan Broomhall, Samina Yasmeen, and Loretta Baldassar from the University of Western Australia, and Sari K. Ishii from Rikkyo University in Japan. Su-Lin Yu is the first director of an NCKU-backed project to attend the WUN. She expressed gratitude for the opportunity to undertake this important work, and conveyed hope that countries from around the world would be able to respect each other’s differences and learn from one another.
Su-Lin Yu recalled past advertisements for foreign brides in Taiwan, especially those for Vietnamese brides: “Vietnamese brides are charming, innocent, pretty and only NT$250,000.” When one side of a cross-national marriage is disadvantaged, marital conflicts and even domestic violence are often the end result. Drawing from Anna W. Tang’s book Frail Lotus, Yu points out that marriage migrants often have to shoulder the burdens of the home and various other hardships. Many are oppressed and restrained by their dependence on their husband’s family. Many end up being deported on grounds of failing to give birth to a son or failure to meet their in-laws’ arbitrary expectations. Some of these marriage migrants are even pressured to sleep with their father-in-laws.
“There’s one woman from Cambodia who married into a Taiwanese family. They lived in the remote countryside. After her husband passed away from an illness, her in-laws treated her like an insane person because she wasn’t able to acclimate to their lifestyle and couldn’t communicate due to the language barrier. They considered having her carted off to a psychiatric ward, or forcing her into a marriage with someone else. Her situation was a very dire one.” Le-kun Tan, a member of the “Marriage Migrants in Asia” project and a specialist in research related to language communication, pointed out that Cambodia is actually a country with mixed languages and cultures. When this Cambodian woman was isolated in a remote rural area, she had little opportunity to interact with and understand wider society in Taiwan. She became trapped in a difficult situation. Sadly, these types of cases are all too common.
It’s not all doom and gloom for marriage migrants, however. In recent years, there have been some inspiring cases of marriage migrants who were able to turn their lives around. For instance, Su-Lin Yu recalls the story of famous Vietnamese director Kim Hong Nguyen: “She came to Taiwan and married into a Taiwanese family when she was 21 years old. After suffering domestic abuse for many years, she plucked up her courage and ended her torturous marriage. She took her son with her, found part-time work, and lived a life of hardship for many years. Her second marriage to Tsung-lung Tsai, also a director, was the light at the end of the tunnel. With his support, Nguyen was able to produce a documentary called ‘Out/Marriage’ about the lives of her fellow marriage migrants. She no longer feels like she is disadvantaged and in need of others’ pity. Today, she’s a beautiful, independent, confident, and free woman. She’s an admirable individual.”
Su-Lin Yu is especially grateful to Chen Yuh-Neu, the dean of NCKU’s College of Liberal Arts, for her unflagging support of the “Marriage Migrants in Asia” project. The project team is aiming to complete an academic book by the end of 2018. They hope that their efforts will effect positive change in society and ameliorate public preconceptions and misconceptions of marriage migrants. Project-related workshops will be conducted at both NCKU and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. NCKU will also hold lectures and special talks by members of the project, and open up channels of exchange with NCKU students and faculty on gender-related research. The “Marriage Migrants in Asia” project is estimated to conclude in one year’s time, but those involved have already agreed to continue their collaboration on other research projects after this project has ended.
Founded on the cusp of the 21st century, the Worldwide Universities Network comprises 23 research-intensive universities across six continents. The alliance exists to pursue solutions to major global issues such as global warming, public health, global higher education and research, and cultural awareness, among others. In 2016, NCKU became the first university from Taiwan to join WUN. The WUN actively invites annual project proposals from member universities. WUN projects must involve three WUN member universities that represent at least two countries.
成功大學以「Marriage Migrants in Asia（亞洲婚姻移民）」計畫，在去年底成為台灣唯一加入世界大學聯盟 Worldwide Universities Network（WUN）的學校，10月5日舉辦國際工作坊展現成果，包括香港、日本、澳洲等地專家學者分享研究心得，還有多位新移民女性、NGO 代表參與討論，社會局、民政局皆派代表到場致意。計畫主持人游素玲教授表示，「此次工作坊所提供重要的見解，將成為政府制定相關政策的依據。」
成大性別與婦女研究中心教授游素玲特別安排會前播放影片，「Our Story」述說研究團隊如何跨國串聯、如何計畫，並且被列為 2018 年 14 個全球最具影響力的計畫案之一；「Their Stories」則呈現學生訪談亞洲婚姻移民女性的成果。游素玲認為，此次工作坊匯聚國際專家學者從各個面向切入，更是讓「我們」和「她們」真正交會，她也述說自己最大的心願，就是「希望她們的故事能被更多人看見，希望我們能持續為她們發聲。」
「亞洲婚姻移民國際工作坊」5 日上午 9 時開幕，進行3場研討共發表11篇論文，會中更進行圓桌會議，與新移民女性們深入交流。此次特別邀請長期在聯合國擔任人口和社會統計部主席的Prof. Keiko Osaki Tomita參與圓桌會議，她指出，聯合國全球契約於今年12月將會特別討論女性移民議題，台灣能在此刻針對此議題，有如此深入的討論，顯示台灣並未置身事外，積極與全球對話。
與會者包括來自西澳大學 Susan Broomhall 教授、Samina Yasmeen 教授、Loretta Baldassa 教授，來自日本的 Sachiko Yokota 教授、香港中文大學曾薰慧教授、香港教育大學杜維真教授。成大方面，則有計畫主持人外文系游素玲教授、教育所陸偉明教授、中文系蔡玫姿教授、歷史系蔡幸娟教授、體育健康休閒管理所徐珊惠教授、臺文系陳麗君教授，以及實踐大學高雄校區應用外語系劉開鈴教授等人。
其中，西澳學者 Samina Tasmeen 聚焦探討澳洲人的「伊斯蘭恐懼症」，提到自美國 911 恐攻事件之後，伊斯蘭恐慌氣氛也在澳洲升溫，雖相較於歐洲各國，特別是英國，澳洲的氛圍僅被認為是恐慌症初期，但隨著 2014 年 IS（伊斯蘭國）的興起，更強化了對伊斯蘭教與穆斯林的負面形象。然而，伊斯蘭恐慌症的升溫所帶來的影響中，女性更是不同於男性，受到的歧視情況更為嚴重。（撰文、攝影／朱怡婷）