Abandoned by NRIs.

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First Scenario:
“We married our daughter off to an NRI. He’ll be taking her to Canada along with him. That’s where they’ll settle.”

Second Scenario:
“We married our daughter off to an NRI. He’s settled in Canada. I am not sure if he’ll ever take her along with him.”

To understand what the scenario’s imply, we must first know what the Hindu Marriage Act constitutes. According to the same, “a marriage can take place between the two consenting individuals of opposite sex, who are of sound mind and the bride is more than eighteen years of age and the groom is more that twenty one years of age. One must also know that even if the marriage takes place between a girl and a boy who have not attained the requisite age, the marriage remains valid. However it may lead to some penal provisions under the Hindu Marriage Act.”

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NRI marriage frauds have been in the news headlines for many years in India. The problem is much bigger in scale than meets the eye, says the National Commission for Women (NCW). In a majority of cases, NRI men come to India, get married, take their brides on honeymoons, send the young women back home promising that they, the husbands, will be back to take their brides to whichever country they are settled in. The last part is rarely ever fulfilled.

Records and reports indicate that over 20,000 Indian girls have not seen their husbands after their honeymoon. In other cases, the brides accompany their husbands to the country where the latter is settled, and it is in an alien land where the brides are abandoned.

Cases exist in which the documents of the NRI groom are discovered to be fraudulent, much later at a time when the only option that a bride has is to file for divorce.

K.H. Patel, the Chairman of NRG centre, GCCI said, “The trend is very disturbing. Many parents come to us with the complaints of their daughters being cheated and left in the lurch in foreign countries.”

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(Indian lawyer Daljit Kaur (right), with women and their family members who travelled to Ludhiana, Punjab, to tell their stories of marital misery)

Despite the disturbing facts about most NRI marriages, the same are still related to as a “status symbol”. In some states, the act of getting daughters married to Non-Resident Indians, under the assumption that such grooms are very well off economically, thereby enabling their wives to lead a comfortable, affluent lives, is very common. In the eagerness of not to let go of such a match, the families tend to ignore even the most common cautions that are observed in traditional matchmaking. The antecedents of the groom and his family are not verified, false information about the groom and his family’s financial stability is exaggerated, and by the brides’ parents, believed.

The increased risks in such marriages include that of the woman being isolated far away from home in an foreign land, usually unaware of the laws of the country, with a language barrier, consequently leading to the lack of communication and knowledge of criminal justice. The absence of the support of friends and family is an added disadvantage that slows down the judicial process, there exists no monetary support, no place of shelter, no one to share the thoughts of a failed marriage with.

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I came across an essay, written on the website of the Punjab Police, during my research and a particular section caught my eye. It focussed on the various kinds of problems and complaints that are prevalent in NRI marriages. Many kinds of hassles that victims of the same have/had to face are listed in the essay :

1. Woman went to her husband’s home in the other country only to be abused both mentally and physically, therefore forcing her either to flee or be forcibly sent back.

2. Woman who had to pay huge sums as dowry, making safety in the foreign land dependent on that.

3. Woman who reached the foreign country of her husband’s residence and waited helpless at the international airport there only to find that her husband would not turn up at all.

4. Woman who learnt on reaching the country of her NRI husband’s residence that he was already married in the other country to another woman, whom he continued to live with.

5. Woman who later learnt that her NRI husband had given false information to con her into the marriage.

6. Woman who approached the court for divorce but repeatedly encountered technical legal obstacles created by her husband to prevent her from succesfully taking legal action against him.

7. Woman who sought to use criminal law to punish her husband and in-laws for matrimonial cruelty and found that the trial could not proceed as the husband would not come to India or respond in any way to summons.

8. Woman who was coaxed to travel to the foreign country of the man’s residence and get married in that country, thereby resulting in the usage of Indian law for justice, nullified.

9. Woman who had to fight nasty legal battles for custody of her children and sometimes even facing charges of illegally abducting her own children because she had no rights of her own.

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Tabled in the Indian Parliament, steps to amend and enforce laws and introducing new rules and regulations to help victims of NRI marriages have been discussed for many years now. To help them reclaim their fundamental rights to property, equality in marriage, freedom from degrading treatment and to be treated with dignity, the panel have often discussed.

However, with the voice of the woman being shunned after she has been abandoned by an NRI, the idea of her receiving justice seems very distant when she lacks the very basic remedial armour of ”knowledge of her rights”.

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