By Maya Palit
A string of horror stories about women being abandoned by their husbands abroad surfaced recently during a conference about NRI marriages organised by the National Commission for Women in Chandigarh. These included women who were forced by thugs to vacate properties they were living in after their husbands sent them divorce papers out of the blue.
In 2014, the Women and Child Department claimed that it handled 346 complaints from Indian women in marriages abroad, and last year the government was contemplating issuing two passports to women, one of which would have proof of their marriages, after it turned out that several women complain about their passports being confiscated by their husbands.
The site is going to contain information about how to approach a lawsuit and go about seeking legal and official help. This could be a good thing because at the moment, such cases are handled by a host of different ministries including the external affairs and women and child development.
The question is whether this effort will be enough, given that it’s been exactly a decade since a handbook on NRI marriages was published by the Overseas Indian Affairs ministry, which has lists of various constitutional rights and statutes like the Right to Custody of Children. But its section titled ‘Precautions for the Bride’ — which is presumably addressed to relatives of the woman getting married — has tips bordering on the banal, such as “Equip the woman with social skills to be able to develop contacts with the neighbours and make friends in the foreign country.”
If the new move rehashes these obvious prescriptions, it might not do too much good, but hopefully it will disseminate more information about accessing legal help and make a tangible difference to women trapped in marriages abroad.