It was a match made in heaven. The bridegroom
had flown down from America and the marriage was solemnised
according to Hindu rites.
After a two-week honeymoon in India, the bridegroom
returned, promising to send his new bride a ticket and visa.
What she got instead was a demand of Rs 5 lakh from her father-in-law.
When the family failed to pay up, they were told that the
marriage had been annulled in the US.
The bride was on her way to Manchester – her
new home – just a week after the wedding. At the door was
another woman, her husbandâ€™s live-in companion. A compromise
could be worked out, the husband suggested. The three would
live together and the wife could take care of the house. However,
her husband divorced her in a month.
Over the past year, the National Commission
of Women (NCW), received more than 200 written complaints
from women trapped in “troubled marriages” with Indians abroad.
Many of them were cheated, tortured, abandoned or forcibly
separated from their children. According to NCW chairperson
Girija Vyas, verbal and anonymous complaints are three times
more than the written ones. Most complaints pour in from Punjab,
Haryana, Delhi, Kerala, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh – described
as “problem states".
The NCW, which says the problem has assumed
endemic proportions, has stepped in with a slew of measures
to bring justice to the abandoned brides.
The measures aim to serve judicial documents
abroad, recognise divorce and legal separation across countries,
ensure maintenance and child custody, impound passports of
errant grooms, initiate criminal proceedings against relatives,
attach property in India and facilitate residence permits
for those women, who want to go abroad to fight their cases.
The NCW is counting on the government to set
up special cells in Indian missions in countries with a large
Indian diaspora. These cells will offer counselling, crisis
assistance, legal support and information to Indian women
duped into marriage. They will also provide information to
women about prospective NRI bridegrooms. Thatâ€™s the first
step. The NCW says the government needs to get into bilateral
arrangements with other countries for policing of troubled
marriages with specific provisions for divorce, child custody
According to the NCW, India needs to sign
the Hague Convention relating to cross-border marriages, develop
an Indian private international law and formulate guidelines
for the police on how to deal with such complaints. Stumbling
The issue of coordination among the Ministry
of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), the Ministry of External
Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry for Women and Child Development
is one such thorn. Moreover, officials from MOIA and External
Affairs Ministry are wary about signing international conventions
without “fully understanding the implication in the Indian
At a recent workshop on the subject, Sandhya
Shukla, director, MOIA said conventions come with a lot of
“baggage ¦and it should be seen if they really help solve
the problems.” M. Gandhi, director in MEA, pointed out that
some “target” countries like the US were not members of the
conventions dealing with matrimonial disputes.
- Rashmi Saksena, New Delhi (Hindustan Times)