Where have our NRI husbands gone?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for NRIs everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
‘NRI marriages’, as generally understood, are between an Indian woman from India and an Indian man residing in another country (thus NRI – non-resident Indian), either as Indian citizen (when he would legally be an ‘NRI’) or as citizen of that other country (when he would legally be a PIO – person of Indian origin). The problem is especially related to Indian women who get trapped in deceptive matrimony with overseas Indians. They also ignore that in case of things going wrong in an NRI marriage, the woman’s recourse to justice is greatly constrained and complex. The aggravated risk in such marriage is the woman is being ‘isolated’ far away from home in an alien land, facing language constraints, communication problems, lack of proper information about the local criminal justice, police and legal system. The problem is manifold and it incorporates issues like dowry and various other types of harassment of married women in foreign countries, marriages of convenience, concealment of earlier existing marriage by the husband before marrying an Indian woman. Another very important issue which needs attention is lack of social security faced by an Indian woman in a foreign country when the marriage is not working. The situation is worsened by lack of support network of friends and family and monetary constraints which leaves the deserted wife completely helpless and stranded.
Here is the list of some of the typical instances of the issues that could arise in NRI marriages:
i. Woman married to an NRI who is abandoned even before being taken by her husband to the foreign country of his residence.
ii. Woman brutally battered, assaulted, abused both mentally and physically, malnourished, confined and ill treated and forced to flee or was forcibly sent back.
iii. A quick engagement, followed by a massive wedding, a huge dowry and a honeymoon, after which the NRI husband flies out of India while the wife waits for her visa.
iv. The menace of ‘honeymoon brides’ is a big problem to deal with as over 20,000 brides have not seen their husbands after their honeymoon.
v. Woman who reached the foreign country of her husband’s residence and waited at the international airport there only to find that her husband would not turn up at all.
vi. NRI husband was already married in the other country to another woman.
vii. Husband had given false information on any or all of the following: his job, immigration status, earning, property, marital status and other material particulars, to con her into the marriage.
viii. Woman who approached the court, either in India or in the other country, for maintenance or divorce but repeatedly encountered technical legal obstacles related to jurisdiction of courts, service of notices or orders, or enforcement of orders or learnt of the husband commencing simultaneous retaliatory legal proceeding in the other country.
These problems have emphasized the requirement of provisions to protect these women and very importantly making them aware of their rights and social security means that are available for them.
There is a need to provide for the following provisions for the welfare of the victims:
i. Simplification of procedure for quick issuance of visa by foreign Missions in India to deserted women to enable them to contest the proceedings filed by NRI / PIO husband in a foreign land.
ii. Introduction of a system of cross check / consent, when a NRI/PIO husband wants to cancel sponsorship of his spouse’s visa. Cancellation should not be permitted as long as dependency of the aggrieved women continues as per Indian law so as to enable her to continue to stay and contest proceedings in the foreign land without being deported and thus deprived of the opportunity to contest the case.
iii. Grant of ex-parte divorce by foreign courts be barred in the case of marriages solemnized in India as per Indian law.
iv. Procedural delay/low priority to issue LOC/RCN against accused NRI/PIO husband in cases of marital discord needs to be addressed.
v. Cases of domestic discord to be included in the scope of extradition treaties. (219th Report of the Law Commission recommends inclusion of cases of domestic discord within their scope).
vi. Difficulty and consequent delay in serving judicial processes issued by Indian courts through the Indian Missions abroad to be addressed.
vii. Simplification of procedure to facilitate extradition/deportation of errant husband and cancellation of passport to face civil/criminal trial in India especially if judicial processes of Indian courts are not responded to.
viii. Need to develop mechanisms to enable quick tracking of NRIs/PIOs in case of desertion. Funds may also need to be allocated for location of such persons through agencies available for the purposes.
ix. Recognition of NCW as an authorized body to directly make applications before foreign courts and foreign missions on behalf of aggrieved women where so required.
x. Building awareness.
xi. Designating nodal officers/department for dealing with NRI issues.
xii. Sensitization of police and authorities for registration of FIR & other NRI issues.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has proposed that women who marry Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) should be issued a second passport, which will remain with the woman’s parents so that they can help her to return in case her first passport is snatched by an abusive husband.
A copy of this second passport — which will be a “combined” document containing details of both the woman and her NRI husband, and will also serve as “proof” of their marriage — will be deposited with the Indian mission in the country where the woman goes to live, WCD Minister Krishna Tirath told The Indian Express. The second passport, the minister said, will allow “the parents to intervene and help their girl. A copy (of this passport) should remain with the Indian embassies abroad so that they have a record, and are able to help the women in need”. "Since we started NRI Cell in 2009, we have been able to solve 110 cases through positive intervention. We are focusing on three states - Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab - where cases of women deserted by NRI husbands are more," said Khanna.
Khanna said that many women are not aware that most Indian missions or embassies have help desks to assist them. There is also a scheme for legal and financial assistance to Indian women deserted by their overseas Indian spouses," said Khanna, who opined that National Domestic Violence Helpline in the US is one of the best help-lines as it also provides assistance to women in local languages of the immigrants.
Once the missions get information about a woman in distress, “they will also be directed to keep an eye on these families”, Tirath added.
Though matrimonial disputes are already intricate areas for legal system, and what is making the situation even more complex is that there is absence of uniform civil laws in India as the personal laws of different religions are different and inter-religious marriages make it all the more difficult to deal with. So, in this existing difficult state of affairs, the legal complications get amplified when in a marriage a foreign country and its legal system get involved. These marriages have to then enter the sphere of private international law where there is conflict of laws of different countries, which makes the issues therein a lot more complex. Solutions to these problems need to be looked into .
The phenomenon of broken NRI marriages was common to all castes – Jats, SCs, Sainis, Ramgharias and Brahmins. It occurred both among the Hindus as well as the Sikhs and even among the Christians. In fact it was surprising to note that marriages between Hindus and Sikhs were extremely common.
Most girls were around 20 years when they got married though some were a little older. The difference in the ages of the girls and boys was about 3-5 years but many a times the boy was much older than the girl, at times even 15 years older.
REASONS FOR SUCH MARRIAGES
If one has to pin-point one reason for marriages with NRIs it is the burning desire and the insane craze to go abroad. This craze is shared by one and all – young and old, men and women and members of all the castes. The route to a foreign land lies through work, education or marriage. Education is the most difficult as it is very expensive there. Most men try and get some work there for their sustenance while all the women choose to reach the fairyland by marrying someone living abroad. Sometimes the sole reason for the marriage may be to be able to go abroad and as soon as the purpose is realised, the marriage is broken off.
The reasons for these marriages on the groom’s side are:
o They can get dowry from marriage with an Indian girl. Parents of girls are willing to give huge dowry to send their daughters abroad and this weakness of the girl’s side is exploited by boys settled in foreign countries.
o They get a holiday wife for the period they stay in India along with the dowry. Boys come home to Punjab for a few weeks and get married to these girls. Some of them marry different girls each time they visit.
o They get an unpaid maid to look after their parents and do their daily chores here in India, thus getting a bahu for the parents while they marry a foreigner for a wife.
o Sometimes the Indian wife is taken abroad so that she works as a maid for him and his foreigner wife and their children.
The reasons on the girls' side are:
• It gives the girl an opportunity to live abroad which she wants above everything else. They feel life with a man settled in a foreign country would be very glamorous and with lots of money they would be able to afford a higher standard of living.
• Marriage with a man settled abroad could be a step for her other siblings/parents to go abroad.
• Boys living in India are not preferred for marriage as they are mostly unemployed.
Many a times there is a mismatch in the ages of the boy and girl and at times there is mismatch even in other respects, such as their thinking, education, social upbringing, etc. Such marriages are decided upon in great haste and solemnised in greater haste. Invariably the boy comes to India for a very short period and the girl’s parents choose not to delay lest someone else offers their daughter to them. For the same reason they do not even make much enquiries. The middleperson is trusted too easily and sometimes even the middleperson does not know of the boy’s or his parents’ intentions. At times even when they know something negative about the boy or his family they are willing to take a chance and hope for the best.
Such marriages incur all the risks that any marriage in India does. The added risk factor is that the boy lives abroad and to compound it, at times the entire family is also abroad. Whereas if such problems arise in a marriage in India there are various social pressures that exert to prevent precipitating the matter, but in such marriages these safeguards do not exist. The boy family lives abroad and there is not much interaction with the girl’s family. No social stigma is attached to them for their actions as hardly anyone in their social circle abroad knows what they have been up to. Some do not even care if anyone knows.
At times, a boy comes to India a number of times and each time he marries another girl – sometimes from another district or village but at times from the same village. In their desire to send their daughter abroad, the parents are willing to marry her to a man who was married earlier and has deserted his previous wife/ wives; at times they are not even sure if he has dissociated himself from them.
Reasons for Break up of Such Marriages
The reasons for such marriages breaking up are many:
•In the first place the marriage was entered into for reasons other than for the making of a family. This could be true for both – the boy as well as the girl. Obviously in such a situation no effort is made to make a success of the marriage but it is only the ulterior motive on each one’s part that is sought. Thus a boy after getting dowry that he/ his family wanted does not see any use of continuing the relationship and hence breaks up. A girl tries to save her marriage at any cost till she can go abroad.
•The period of waiting to get permanent resident status in the foreign country is very prolonged in some cases and sometimes very difficult. In some countries it is granted to only those persons who are married to a national of that country. The situation is even more difficult in the case of those who gone abroad without a proper visa.
• Since the reason for marrying an NRI is to go abroad and get an opportunity for legal stay in that country, it really does not matter if the marriage works or not. The attitude of many a girl is that if the marriage does not work out, one can always leave one’s partner and marry someone else.
• The problem of adjustment in such marriages is more acute. Adjustment to the husband’s family has to be made without his support particularly during the crucial early period. The boys stay here with their wives for a very brief period, not sufficient for mutual understanding. In the absence of such understanding close family members can create misunderstandings between the couple. The period of separation from the spouse is very long.
• Sometimes the parents/ siblings on either side do not want the marriage to work. The reason may be personal or it could be the compensation that can be demanded on the breaking up of the marriage.
• When the girl goes abroad, the actual reality is different from the rosy picture that she had in mind. There may still be poverty in store for her. Her social isolation is acute – she may not know the local language, people whom she meets are her husband’s extended family or their friends while her own parental support is missing. She is at the mercy of her husband/ his family and they control her completely. The girl almost always is subjected to unreasonable demands for dowry which cannot be fulfilled by her parents. She is taunted for every little thing and many a times inhuman treatment is meted out to her – physical as well as mental torture.
• Failure to adjust to the social environment of the foreign country.
• Girls are becoming more aware and demand more freedom and self-respect than they did earlier, while the men though living abroad do not have a broad outlook, more so the parents of the boy. There are different standards for the boy and the girl.
The Supreme Court in its judgement in the case of Neeraja Sharaph vs. Jayant V. Saraph has emphasised the need to consider legislation safeguarding the interests of women and has suggested the following specific provisions:
1. No marriage between an NRI and an Indian woman which has taken place in India may be annulled by a foreign court.
2. Adequate alimony should be paid to the wife out of the share of the property of the husband, both in India and abroad in case of divorce.
3. The decree granted by Indian courts should be made executable in foreign courts both on the principle of comity by entering into reciprocal agreements and notifying them under section 44A of the Civil Procedure Code which makes a foreign decree executable as it would have been a decree passed by that court.
In Harmeeta Singh v Rajat Taneja , the Indian High Court passed an order of restraint against the husband to stop him from continuing with divorce proceedings in the U.S. while a maintenance case was going on in India filed by the abandoned wife. The High Court asked the husband to present a copy of this order to the U.S. court and observed that if he still obtained a divorce from the U.S. courts, such a divorce would not be recognized in India. Since under Section 44A of the Indian Civil Procedures Code (CPC) the United States was not a “reciprocating territory,” orders issued by a U.S. court would not be automatically recognized by the Indian court.76 As per CPC, foreign decrees from non-reciprocating countries must be filed in Indian District courts to seek recognition and enforcement.
A loved one is gone. How can you cope with the pain? First comes denial, then anger. Then the depression descends like a dark cloud. It becomes hard to deal with even the smallest task. Will you survive? Is it possible for life to seem normal again?
India Initiatives on Safeguards of Deserted NRI Women
03 Feb 2012 - Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has brought out a guidance booklet on “Marriages to Overseas Indians” which contains information on safeguards available to women deserted by their Non-Resident Indian spouses, legal remedies available, authorities that can be approached for redressal of grievances. A pamphlet entitled “Thinking of the marriage of your daughter with an NRI?” has also been brought out by the Ministry highlighting the precautions to be taken before entering into marriage alliance. Apart from this, National Commission for Women (NCW), the coordinating agency at the National level for dealing with the issues pertaining to NRI marriages has brought out a pamphlet entitled “Problems Relating to NRI Marriages-Dos and Don’ts”. It describes the problems related to NRI marriages and suggests precautionary dos and don’ts for Indian women considering marriage to a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) or a Person of Indian Origin (PIO). NCW has also brought out a report on problems relating to NRI marriages, titled “The ‘No where’ Brides”.
Beside this, a scheme was launched in 2007 to provide legal /financial assistance to the deserted or divorced overseas Indian women through the Indian Missions/Posts. It was revised and the revised scheme came into effect from November, 2011. The scheme would be available to Indian women who have been deserted by their overseas Indian / foreign husbands or are facing divorce proceedings in a foreign country, subject to the following conditions:-
• The marriage of the woman has been solemnized in India or overseas with an overseas Indian or a foreigner
• The woman is deserted in India or overseas within fifteen years of the marriage; or
• Divorce proceedings are initiated within fifteen years of the marriage by her overseas Indian foreign husband; or
• An ex-parte divorce has been obtained by the overseas Indian / foreign husband within twenty years of marriage and a case for maintenance and alimony is to be filed by her.
The scheme would not be available to a woman having a criminal case decided against her, provided that a criminal charge of Parental Child Abduction shall not be a bar if the custody of the child has not yet been adjudicated upon. The assistance will be limited to US$ 3000 per case in developed countries and US$ 2000 per case in developing countries and will be released to the empanelled legal counsel of the applicant or Indian Community Association / Women’s organization / NGO concerned to enable it to take steps to assist the woman in documentation and preparatory work for filing the case.
Steps to Help Indian Women Deserted by Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Husbands
6 Feb 2012 - AHMEDABAD — Women deserted by their Non-Resident Indian (NRI) husbands overseas or soon after their marriage in Indianow need not feel helpless. Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has launched a booklet on the safeguards available to such women. The booklet, Marriages to Overseas Indians, contains details about the legal remedies available for such women and the authorities that can be approached for redress of grievances.
1.NRIs by and large represent an entrepreneurial and hard working people who have succeeded in establishing India on the world map. The assumption that they are deceitful, marry for money and dump their brides is both inaccurate and slanderous.
2.As evident from the happenings in Doaba (Punjab) and Hyderabad, it is amply clear that an OBSESSION to MIGRATE to foreign shores is one of the major root-causes for the phenomenon of abandonment. Abandonment has nothing to do with a specific gender. As evident from numerous cases cited earlier it is clear that wives abandon their husbands as well.
3.Obsession to Migrate to foreign shores has allowed many unfair trade practices to flourish, which has swindled the common man of his hard earned money, dignity and social standing in society. Unscrupulous Travel Agents and Marriage Bureaus have flourished by ruining the lives of these innocent, gullible people. Such travel agents and middle-men have taken ample advantage of the obsession people have to migrate. Several Agents and Thugs have been booked in the past and there are ample evidences to suggest that women also are an equal partner in this crime.
4.Absence of a gender-neutral forum has deprived the Government from collecting relevant statistics and facts on issues / hardships faced by married men and their families. There are no statutory bodies (like NCW) who are willing to believe their grievances. There are no laws which could provide remedy to the peculiar situation that NRI men and their families find themselves in. All laws are heavily biased towards benefiting the women, to an extent where they prove detrimental to the welfare of Men and their families.
5.An in-depth, correct understanding of the issue of Abandonment can be gained only through a gender-neutral approach. In the absence of a neutral approach, any solution devised by the Government would in all likelihood boomerang at a later stage, primarily because the Government would have completely neglected and overlooked the needs and peculiar situation of NRI men and their families.
6.Even if the sheer number of NRI abandoned brides are to be believed then too the said problem would be region-specific only. It would be inappropriate to address region-specific issues through legislations which affect the entire populace of the country. Such short-sighted legislations would not provide the real solution to the problem. MEA and MOIA should resolve the said phenomenon by addressing the root-cause of the malady and not the ultimate effect which is visible in the form of abandonment.
Therefore, before promulgating any strict laws it would be prudent to recognize that the phenomenon of NRI abandoned brides is a socio-economic problem and the answer lies in creating awareness as opposed to passing laws that are in violation of the individual’s Right to Liberty and Dignity.
7.The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs should have well documented evidence of the number of women victims of fraudulent NRI marriages before reaching the conclusion that such cases have attained alarming proportions. Admittedly, 100 such complaints from a Diaspora comprising 45 million NRIs cannot be called an alarming situation.
8.In the interest of justice it would be judicious if the Ministry would also take note of complaints from NRI men who have been victimized by Indian women. Government should extend necessary support to such men and their families as well.
9.Government should recognize that failure of NRI marriages happens due to a variety of reasons and that both men as well as women are responsible for such failures. The absolving of all women from blame is both naïve as well as wishful.
10.The contention that every case of abandoned bride is due to harassment / dowry demands is over simplistic. In order to effectively deal with these cases and stem the rot, the MEA and MOIA should concentrate on root causes and every attempt should be made to prevent this highly emotional issue from turning into a NRI bashing platform.
11.There are large number of cases where NRI men have been inflicted with false charges under Section 498A of IPC (a gender-biased law). Such false accusations in turn help to reinforce the blinkered perception that dowry is the sole reason for abandoned NRI brides. Whereas in many cases of abandonment it has come to light that the unscrupulous wife resorts to frivolous charges of dowry harassment (against the NRI husband and his family). Such frivolous charges provide protective cover to the malicious intentions of unscrupulous wives who despite having committed wrongs are able to take advantage of their own wrongs.
12. MEA, MOIA and NCW should arrange social awareness campaigns educating women and their family members about:
•The importance of following legal immigration procedures.
•Living in western countries with its rigours and different pace of life, which may not be as attractive (luxury and leisure) as originally believed.
•Thoroughly check the prospective bridegroom’s antecedents and at the same time be honest about oneself.
The suggestions for change are certainly not exhaustive. As we advocate for transnationally abandoned women, we are certain to learn from their experiences and needs. In the mean time, there is no doubt that a group of South Asian women are suffering in silence, their social, economic, and individual rights to live in dignity and peace destroyed without compunction. The women need our efforts at advocacy to ensure not only their safety and well-being but also all women’s right to a viable and just life.
# Where have our NRI husbands gone? On www.nriinternet.com/...Wife/.../2_CandianDivorce_IndianGirlsndex.htm
# Akshay Shandilya, Shaleen Tiwari ,NRI Marriages: The Evolving Societal Malaise in India, IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) Volume 12, Issue 6 (Jul. - Aug. 2013), PP 29-39
# M.K. JABBIA DIAGNOSTIC STUDY OF WIVESDESERTED BY NRIS on wcd.nic.in/research/diagnostic_study.doc
# 1994 SCC (6) 461, JT 1994 (6) 488
# (102 (2003) DLT 822)