By Sharanya Gopinathan
Here are some disturbing statistics from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
According to news reports, the MEA received 3,328 complaints from NRI women between 1 January 2015 and 30 November 2017. This means that they received, on average, one distress call every 8 hours, or three per day. Most of the women call with complaints of desertion by their husbands, harassment for dowry, ill-treatment and physical abuse.
Aarthi Rao, who worked with the Indian embassy in Washington DC for 16 years, told The Times of India that the highest number of such calls are made by women originally from Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat.
The government does seem to be taking some action on the issue. In May 2017, the MEA constituted a panel to submit their recommendations on actions to be taken to help address the violence and difficulties faced by NRI women trapped in abusive marriages abroad. Among other things, the panel recommended that NRIs who harass or desert their wives should have their passports impounded or cancelled, and that such abuse should come under the ambit of the extradition treaties India signs with other countries. This last recommendation comes in the face of how difficult it is for these legal cases to proceed when the men refuse to return to the country.
The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare also constituted a panel to look into the issues that NRI women face, and in July 2016, it recommended that NRI women be given two passports, one of which would have proof of their marriages, to address the issue of husbands confiscating their passports upon arrival. As we discussed back in June 2017, the MEA also plans to launch an online portal where women can access information on their legal options in case of abandonment.
Experts say that many of these cases come from men marrying women who their parents choose for them to keep their parents happy, but whom they have no intention of actually living with.
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