A marriage of convenience: marriage migration policy and Cambodia’s lean into China
AuthorYork, Brandais Alexis
AffiliationMelbourne Law School
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-09-03.
© 2019 Brandais Alexis York
Since the first cases emerged in 2012, an estimated 10,000 Cambodian women have migrated through marriage to China. As a result of allegations relating the practice to abuse and exploitation, hundreds of these women have been repatriated annually through the aid of international institutions and reactionary government policies. Although marriage migration is not new to Cambodia, this movement of women was unique for two reasons. First, as a previous ‘sending country’, China differs from other ‘receiving countries’ in that it does not formally allow marriage migrants, and there is no visa to accommodate them. Second, Cambodia officially banned commercial matchmaking for marriage migration in 2008, resulting in a system now defined by irregular recruitment and smuggling practices that have proven difficult to monitor. Drawing on original fieldwork conducted in Cambodia between 2015-2017, this thesis presents the results of a socio-legal analysis of marriage migration that examines law within the context of female agency, the cultural and historical status of women, and shifting international influences within the Cambodian legal and political system. This thesis first highlights the lived experiences of the migrants, with an aim to present their original motivations for migration as a counter to the perception that the women are migrating solely as victims of fraud and deception. I then trace the influence of the international development community within Cambodia, examining how their involvement impacted the language and approaches utilised by the government. Finally, this thesis explores the legal approach to marriage migration through an analysis of the related negotiations and aftermath of Cambodia and China’s bilateral approach. As a result of unmatched institutional approaches and distinctly different legal systems, negotiations aimed to establish a bilateral agreement resulted in a non-binding and limited Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed in October 2016. The MoU defines the practice solely in relation to trafficking, leaving doubts that the legal mechanisms they have proposed will curb the flow of any hopeful brides wishing to migrate legitimately. To justify my use of such a varied mix of theories, methods, and approaches to this topic, I look to Peter Katzenstein and Rudra Sil’s ‘analytic eclecticism.’ Traditionally applied within the social sciences, analytic eclecticism is an approach which aims to encourage creative recombination of theory free from singular paradigmatic approaches. Analytic eclecticism allows for a mixed-theoretical approach intended to provide practical answers to empirical questions about problems within international life. My use of this approach employs feminist and development theory to answer questions that I argue cannot be answered through one paradigm or discipline. I argue that it is important to understand the perspectives of all the involved actors in order to grasp the full scope of the problem, and in turn, how the problem has been inadequately addressed.
Keywordshuman rights law; international law; migration; marriage migration; Cambodia
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