NRI Women Urge Better Protection Against Marital Abandonment

Indian women are often left in the lurch when their marriage to a Non-Resident Indian breaks down.


A leading group of Indian women staged a protest outside the United Kingdom Home Office’s Visas and Immigration headquarters in London on August 16 to highlight the woes of women who come on ‘dependent visas’ to the country and are abandoned by their husbands.

Indian Ladies in the UK (ILUK) urges the government to bring about a change in legal requirements under which husbands have the right to cancel a spousal visa on their own by claiming an end to their marriage, and the Indian wives are left with legal rights in the country.

Need for Preservation of Women’s Rights

The organisation wants the government to come up with a provision that entitles the wife to put across her views to the UK Home Office, and that her consent is taken before cancelling her dependent visa.

“It is appalling that migrants bring their home-grown prejudices about the treatment of women and outdated ideas about caste, dowry etc. with them to the UK. While Britain’s immigration system has been generous to millions, it is also quite easily exploited by individuals who have no sense of right and wrong when it comes to the treatment of women,” Poonam Joshi, the founder of ILUK, said in a media statement.

A UK Home Office spokesperson spoke about the government’s commitment to prevent abuse through marriage or other relationships. “We have taken a lead in tackling modern slavery, forced marriage and domestic violence and will continue to do so. We will look carefully at any evidence of where further action might help to prevent abuse or support victims,” the spokesperson said, PTI reported.

Measures in India

The issue has been receiving resonance in India as well. An expert committee was set up the External Affairs Ministry in May this year to look into the difficulties faced by Indian women married to overseas nationals and suggest changes in the existing policies.

The committee, headed by Justice Arvind Kumar Goel, ex-Chairperson, Punjab’s NRI Commission and senior officers of Women and Child Development Ministry, Home and External Affairs Ministries and Department of Telecommunications, will take into account the suggestions from various people and make its recommendations to the government. “The recommendations will be examined by the government in consultation with a larger group of stakeholders to decide on the future course of action,” an official statement issued by the Women and Child Development Ministry said last month had said in July.

The National Commission for Women website contains a section on problems related to NRI marriages, which lists out the main dos and don’ts that people need to keep in mind.

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal had recently emphasized on the need for stricter laws against Non-Resident Indian (NRI) men abandoning their Indian wives. “If today a man abandons his bride and flees the country, it is very difficult to get him back. This is why we need stringent rules,” she had said, talking about the need to follow Punjab’s model of setting up an NRI commission where such marriages can be registered. The commission also has a dedicated email id to which grievances can be sent.

Taking Notes from Punjab’s Model

The NRI commission in Punjab deals with the cases of NRI men abandoning their Indian brides after marriage. The Punjab Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act also makes it mandatory for people to register all the marriages, especially between an Indian and an NRI.

Moreover, at the time of marriage, the man has to submit his passport number and important details such as permanent address in the overseas country. This aims at tackling the major obstacle of sending legal notices to the NRIs who abandon their wives. There is an NRI Affairs cell monitored by the Punjab Police on the NRI commission website, which provides information about NRI marriages.

Increasing Number of Cases

Around 12,000 cases and 55 recommendations were made by the DCW to the Central and Delhi governments in one year regarding the issue of NRI marriages gone wrong. Women’s helpline 181 received 3.15 lakh calls on the issue, reported The Hindu.

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