IIAS Newsletter 45 Autumn 2007

Transnational marriage in Asia

Melody Chia-Wen Lu

Theme Introduction

In today’s rapidly globalising world, marriage as a contract between two individuals based on love and commitment to each other is increasingly considered a norm. The degree of women’s control over their marital decisions and choice of mate, based on individual traits rather than the family’s socio-economic status, is seen as a measure of whether a society has embraced modernity. In reality, marriage involves many actors with complex decision-making processes and multiple considerations. In many Asian societies, being and staying married, for both men and women, is a social and family obligation and a criterion of social standing. Kin members, the state, marriage intermediaries (institutional or individual) and commercial sectors are all involved in decision-making. This is particularly the case of cross-border marriages, with the state deciding and controlling who is allowed to marry, whether spouses are allowed to enter or reside in the receiving societies, as well as their naturalisation and assimilation process.

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