Episodes of brides abandoned by their NRI husband are, unfortunately, not that rare. There are more than 50,000 registered cases in India against absconding NRI husbands. While legal measures are few and limited, more and more laws are being enacted to bring relief to victims.
The Story So Far
Most women in the country have limited say in choosing prospective bridegrooms. The typical Indian woman remains marginalized in any decision-making process. A slew of social factors contributes to this scenario, beginning within the family.
But when NRI husbands abscond to a foreign country, the brides end up at the receiving end. The social and mental harassments faced by these women are merely the tip of the iceberg. With no financial and legal support, they are exposed to severe vulnerabilities. Eventually, they become victims of financial and economic distress. They rarely get any support for the custody and maintenance of children.
The IPC falls short of specific laws against NRI husbands deserting their brides. The perpetrators are usually booked under section 498A of the IPC and the Dowry Act. However, the deportation of perpetrators depended largely on the authorities of the resident country.
Many times, the NRI husband’s deportation has been rejected under diplomatic grounds. But this situation is set to change in the future. The government has introduced a couple of new measures in recent years to protect women.
Support Measures by GOI for Abandoned Wives:
The Government has taken a multilateral approach to address the distress of abandoned wives. So far, the Ministry of External Affairs has addressed over 6,094 complaints on this issue. There are also several awareness campaigns undertaken to make the general public aware of such prevalent risks.
The Ministry of External Affairs has published a booklet, Marriages to Overseas Indians. The booklet contains details about the legal remedies available for abandoned women. The main objective here is to provide counseling and guidance on legal procedures. It also provides information on the grievance redressal mechanism.
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The guidelines for the Indian Community Welfare Fund were revised in 2017. It includes additional benefits for wives abandoned by NRIs. The new guidelines increased financial assistance to distressed women to $4000 per case.
The Government also launched the MADAD portal in 2015. This portal provides assistance to Indian nationals facing distress abroad, including marital disputes.
The INA (Integrated Nodal Agency) was set up as an expert committee to address such issues. It is headed by the Secretary of Women & Child Development. So far, the INA has presided over 15 sittings. They have also issued eight Look Out Circulars against transgressors.
The Government introduced the Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill in 2019. This bill was introduced to address the need of the hour. The bill is already set for approval. It seeks amendments to the Passports Act, 1967 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Under the provision of this bill,
- Any NRI who marries an Indian citizen or another NRI, either within or outside India, must get their marriage registered within 30 days.
- An NRI failing to register the marriage within 30 days may get his passport impounded. There is no extension given for registration.
- Regardless of other provisions in the CrPC, if a court is satisfied that summons could not be served to a person, it may upload the summons on the designated website of the Ministry of External Affairs.
You Are Not Alone
Thousands of abandoned wives across the country have pleaded and sought relief under the Indian legal system. Sadly, many women subjected to such incidents are not even aware of the redressal mechanisms available. Other victims fear speaking up due to the social stigma attached to it. With more and more laws and institutional bodies to support distressed victims, it is time to make yourself heard. Approach the NRI cell of the National Council for Women to seek guidance in such situations. Local NGOs for women in your region can also steer you towards a proper course of action.
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