Mail order brides originated with Japanese men who immigrated to the United States. Once there they would want a bride, mail home, and ask their family to begin searching for a suitable partner for him. They would send him information and probably a picture of the prospective bride. If he was interested, and he usually was, he would send back to his family and they would begin the process of legalizing the marriage in Japan before sending the Japanese mail order bride out to meet her new husband. Since many Japanese marriages were arranged by the families even when both the bride and groom were residing in Japan, this practice was not a radical one in its time.
Now, however the practice of finding a Japanese mail order bride or Chinese mail order bride is an object of much contention in modern times. There is a heated argument over the ethics of ordering a woman that you have never met from a country you have never been to. Women's rights activists and proponents of domestic abuse awareness have some real arguments against the practice. For one they claim that Japanese mail order brides are vulnerable to domestic abuse. They are easily isolated because they have been transported from their homes into a country with a culture, language, and social structure very different from their own. Further, because they know little to nothing about the man they have come to marry, they can easily fall victim to someone who has a history of abusive relationships. They also have no way of knowing that any information they have been given is actually true. The man can claim he has a job, when he has none, or that he has never been married when he has actually been married several times.
Of course the deception can go both ways. The woman can also falsify the biography posted on the mail order bride web site. In a more extreme scenario there have actually been cases of woman who have posted their profiles on several different web sites under several different names. The deception can even go so far as to become a federal offence. A woman can claim she is going to marry the man, and in this way gain a green card and an entrance visa then, once she gets into the country she can disappear before the marriage actually takes place.
All of these are valid arguments against the practice of mail order brides. However, there are other arguments that point out why the practice could be a good one for both parties. The women shown on these web sites don't usually view themselves as the wronged and victimized creatures they are often portrayed to be. For women from under developed countries who want to be a bride, mail order bride web sites look like a good idea. They view marriage to a man from a more privileged country as a portal into a new life.
Since Japan has become a developed country, the Japanese mail order bride is not as common as once she was. Mail order brides are now more likely to be from Russia or the Filipines where women are still often treated as second class citizens. These women believe that marrying a man from the United States, Australia, or Europe will afford them freedoms and opportunities to which they would not otherwise have access.