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THE NRI EYE: Deserted wives or ditched husbands: Who to pity?

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

THE NRI EYE: Deserted wives or ditched husbands: Who to pity?

What about the poor Gulf Malayalee who finds out one fine morning that ! his pretty young bride married him only for his wealth and that she now wants to leave him and spend the rest of her life by bleeding him of alimony? Not fair, you'd say. Yet, more and more of the fair sex are now said to be looking at non-resident Indian grooms either as a stepping stone to a visa if in the West or a lifetime of easy maintenance money if in the Gulf.

Even as a parliamentary committee has called for stricter norms to protect Indian women from being exploited by 'unscrupulous' NRI husbands, a non-governmental organisation has demanded steps to curb the misuse by self-seeking brides of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women tabled in its report on the "Plight of Indian Women Deserted by NRI Husbands" before the Lok Sabha last week. It has asked the government to consider enactment of uniform personal laws for all religious communities on marriage/divorce, maintenance, property rights and related issues and incorporate special provisions in them with regard to NRI marriages.

The committee, chaired by Congress MP Krishna Tirath, has also desired that all marriages, irrespective of religion, be compulsorily registered. "In marriages with NRIs, such registration will not only help a woman fight her case if deserted, but also enable the Embassy to have full information about the marriage while keeping a track of the erring NRI husband," it said.

It may be recalled that the Women and Child Development Ministry, has already proposed a law for making registration of marriages compulsory for all religions. The Law Ministry is understood to be of the view that registration of marriages should be compulsory for only Hindus.

The committee suggested that the marriage certificate for NRI marriages be issued in duplicate to facilitate deserted women to fight their legal battles, that the government should take immediate steps to become signatory to the Hague Conventions, especially the ones related to NRI marriages, and that the government should enter reciprocal bilateral treaties with countries where Indian diaspora is in large number to deal exclusively with cases of fraudulent NRI marriages.

The report has recommended that special cells be set up with Indian missions abroad to address problem NRI marriages. It also suggested that the Indian Passport Act be amended to incorporate a provision where the erring husband's passport could be cancelled.

The report was based on inputs from the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Ministry of Ex! ternal Affairs, National Commission for Woman, NGOs and aggrieved women.

On the other hand, international NGOs like Rakshak and 498a.org have spoken up for the hapless NRI groom ditched by greedy Indian brides. Rakshak is an international organisation dedicated to elder abuse and is working in close conjunction with 498a.org, an international forum engaged in researching the impact of misuse of gender biased laws such as Section 498 A of the IPC.

'The phenomenon of abandoned brides is one that has received huge media attention, but a new trend of "vanishing brides and abandoned grooms" has somehow escaped attention, Dr Anupama Singh of 'Rakshak' was quoted as having said recently.

At a teleconferencing session in New Delhi last week, several NRI men recounted ! stories of having been dumped by unscrupulous wives — who take advantage of gender-biased laws by filing false cases of domestic violence and dowry abuse to harass and extort money.

Dr Singh says the statistics speak for themselves: Against the number of 152 cases registered of "abandoned wives", the number of cases of "abandoned grooms" is around 700. Also, the courts have declared 80 per cent men charged under Section 498-A were innocent, she pointed out. Section 498-A of the IPC is a criminal law in which the wife and her family can charge any or all of the husband's family for physical and mental cruelty.

The organisations have cited scores of cases in which, they claimed, NRI grooms were used to acquire a visa of a foreign country and then abandoned by their wives. There are also cases where women suffering from mental illness were married off to N! RI men by with-holding information and later 'false' dowry cases were filed by the bride's families to extort money, the organisations claimed. Rakshak has made representations to top Indian authorities including the President of India, judges and ministers, including the Minister of Overseas Indians Affairs. They allege that the officials were "persistently refusing to consider the issue". They accused the ministry of "acting under undue pressure and influence" from theNational Commission for Women and the women and child development ministry.

Source ::: The Peninsula / By Moiz Mannan

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