Thursday, August 4, 2011


Abandoned women need urgent security

Indian marriages have transformed. With each passing day it has only become more conspicuous and grand. But it is just not the marriages seeing a transformation only with respect to the scale, it has also seen a paradigm shift with respect to the whole business of marriage. And the unfortunate bit is that like every time, here too, it is the woman who is being at the receiving end. Over last few years, it is being observed that marriages happen, dowry happens and the groom disappears, abandoning the bride in lurch. The practice of abandoning wives (after a few months of marriage) is nothing new, but then it has seen a never-before surge recently. In the era of women empowerment such pejorative act is quite ironical.

Interestingly, most of cases of abandoning wives take place out of India. Most of the time NRI husbands after getting married go back to their country promising to come back and rarely returns. In order to counter this, Government of India issues two valid passports of newly married wives (when they ought to settle abroad with their NRI husbands) with complete details of husband and that of the marriage which is deposited with the embassy and can be used in case of emergency.

In 2009, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs received around 45 complaints from women abandoned by their NRI husbands. In 2010, a regional passport office official revealed how 15,000 girls from Doaba region (of Punjab) were cheated by their NRI husbands post their marriages. Most of the time, these cases are buried by families of aggrieved parties fearing social taboo and stigma.

The perpetrators make merry only because of loopholes in our existing marriage laws. Firstly, it’s very tough to trace the ‘runaway husband,’ as most of the time the information furnished (and mostly verbally) during marriage turns out to be false. Secondly, it gets really challenging for many women to even prove the verity of their marriage during legal proceedings. Thirdly, there is virtually no centralised system to check whether the man was already married or not.

Obviously, no law can eliminate this social malaise, but a stringent and centralised system, if put in place, can, to a large extent, save the lives of these distress brides. The government should make marriage registration mandatory across the country, irrespective of caste, class and religion. As of now, only a few states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh have made marriage registration compulsory. More than half of the states in India are still to ratify the act. The Supreme Court should urgently make it a universal law and club it with Hindu Marriage Act as well. Extending this, all marriage certificates and registration should be available on a single information portal wherein all details of the bride and grooms (with verified residential address, passport, PAN no, work address, bank account details, previous marital status–if any) should be included. This will allow one-stop information access and make traceability much easier and smoother. The government should go ahead and sign bilateral agreements with different countries (US, UK, Canada and Middle-east, to start off with) to counter such illegalities with clauses that ensures legal rights, assistance and support in case of frauds. This is important as these girls generally belong to middle and lower middle class families, for whom fighting cases (in India and abroad) is practically impossible, and their dignified survival, impossible.


No comments:

Post a Comment