Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking

October 27, 2006

Dieu-Hien was approached by a matchmaker in her village with a marriage proposal.

The matchmaker told her parents that there is a rich Taiwanese man who has four children and is looking for a wife to start a new life with.  His children will be her children, and will love and honor her as their new mom.  Dieu-Hien and her parents accepted the matchmaker’s offer, although they did not receive any money from the arrangement.

Hien arrived in Taiwan as a hopeful bride, but was made to work as a servant from the very first day.  That’s when she found out that her “husband”’s former wife had left him due to his drinking and abuse, and now she has to take care of his four children as well as his parents.  Hien’s day starts at 5am, cooking and taking care of the household, then making tofu to sell at the store.  During the day, she’s expected to make and carry 150-200 sets of tofu, each weighing 25 pounds.  Throughout the day and late into the night, Hien has to cook and clean for the household in addition to taking care of the children.

All the while, Hien’s husband and mother-in-law yelled and beat her for every small infraction, real or imagined.  After one month, she couldn’t take the abuse anymore and tried to commit suicide by hanging herself with a cloth.  When she came to, she found herself lying out on the balcony, bloodied and bruised all over.  That evening, she was allowed into the house to shower and change clothes, then was banished onto the balcony for two days.

After that incident, Hien called the marriage broker who came with an interpreter, but they weren’t willing to intervene.  This happened over and over again, with the broker coming and going until one day, the interpreter asked her husband to take her to the doctor.  That’s when Hien found out she was five weeks pregnant.  But her husband and mother-in-law said they  don’t want anymore kids, and made plans for Hien to have an abortion.   When she refused, they began to systematically beat her, repeatedly punching and kicking her in the stomach for days on end.

Then Hien was again forced to live on the balcony for 5 straight days.  After that, she was made to carry pails of water up the stairs to use for the toilet and to shower.  When that still didn’t work, her husband called the broker and said he wanted a divorce.  Hien was brought to the police station and signed all the necessary paperwork.  But her husband took her home without signing any papers.  After 11 days, Hien pressed her husband for an answer and was told that he has paid too much money for her to just up and leave.  She asked her mother-in-law and was told the same thing, and received another severe beating for it.  Her husband threatened to kill her if she ever left him.

Fearing for herself and her baby’s life, Hien ran away that afternoon – four months after she came to Taiwan - with a friend’s help.  She contacted a relative in Canada and was given Fr. Nguyen Van Hung Peter’s, Executive Director of the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office, phone number where she went to seek help.  However, her ordeal did not end there.

Father Hung’s staff contacted the County’s domestic violence office (due to security concerns and following protocol) which runs a shelter with 24 hour security.  When the county social worker arrived, in front of VMWBO’s staff, she admonished Hien for causing trouble and warned her that she will have to return to her husband after two weeks at the shelter.  Upon a reminder of the law protecting domestic violence victims, the social worker claimed that foreign brides are causing social disorder by “running away all over the place”.  She then took Hien to the police station, with VWMBO staff serving as the interpreter since neither her office nor the police station had one.  At the police station, Hien was again admonished by the police officer for “making trouble in society”.

Unsatisfied with how the County office is treating Hien’s case, VWMBO helped her attain a pro bono lawyer to get a restraining order and sue her husband for abuse.  During the first mediation meeting, her husband’s family threatened to counter-sue her.  Also under Taiwan’s law, the children belongs to the father.  Fearful that she may lose her baby if the child is born in Taiwan, and not wanting to stay in Taiwan any longer, Hien agreed to a settlement of US$600 as long as her husband sign the divorce papers right away so she can go home.  VMWBO helped Hien with the airfare home, and its staff donated another US$300 to help soften her transition back to Vietnam.

Hien has bravely requested VMWBO write down her story as a warning to prospective brides.

For more information about supporing Vietnamese women trafficked to Taiwan, visit
Vietnamese Migrant Workers & Brides Office