ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Doubly Difficult Abroad

Non-resident Indian wives facing domestic oppression need protection from their host and home governments.

The problem of non-resident Indian (NRI) women trapped in situations of domestic torture a great distance away from immediate family and living in a culture that is at best unfamiliar and at worst alien, is not new. However, the issue has gained an urgent edge in recent years. With increasing emigration from across India’s socio-economic strata the number of such women too has increased phenomenally. Last week, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) released figures that show that one NRI wife calls back home every eight hours (this translates into three calls daily) seeking rescue from a domestic nightmare. Between January 2015 and November 2017, the MEA alone received 3,328 complaints. The actual number of victims would be much larger and include those who have not sought help from family or official agencies, or have turned only to family or elsewhere. 

While the women labelled “NRI brides” represent a myriad of different backgrounds, official as well as other studies show that Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat register the highest number of complaints. Each of these states, among others in the country, has a backlog of pending cases filed by abused/cheated women. The complaints range from abandonment after marriage (either in India or abroad), bigamous unions (the man already has a wife abroad), false information about the man’s job and earnings, harassment for dowry, domestic violence, and ex-parte divorce based on false documents. These cases predominantly are from the United Kingdom, the United States (US) and West Asia where most of the Indian diaspora is based. The women hail from different educational backgrounds, ranging from semi-literate to engineering and computer technology graduates. Most of the complaints from the US are from the wives who are H4 visa holders, financially dependent on husbands who are holders of the H1B visa. Women holding H4 visas were not allowed to work until the Obama administration allowed them to apply for work permits in 2015. However, given the current political dispensation in the US, this may not be easy.

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Updated On : 10th Feb, 2018
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