Supportive laws

Supportive laws

A parliamentary panel has recommended legislation or amendment of existing legislation to more robustly protect the rights of women married to non-resident Indian (NRI) men.

Several instances of such women being duped have come to light over the decades. In several cases, the men have quietly abandons the women after marrying and thendeny a marriage happened when the question of compensation is raised. Compulsory registration of NRI marriages, affixing photocopy of the NRI husband’s passport in the marriage register and the presence of both parties to the marriage at its registration are among the steps suggested to strengthen proof of marriage in the event of abandonment of brides.

Then there are cases of men who are already married or have live-in partners abroad but marry under pressure to please their parents. Whatever their compulsions, the fact is that young brides with stars in their eyes get married to an NRI, only to find that their future is not so rosy after all. The number of cases of unhappy marriages, domestic violence, divorce and custody over children is growing. The situation of brides in NRI marriages is that these are determined by Indian rules as well as foreign laws.

It is to ease the problems faced by such women that the parliamentary panel has suggested comprehensive legislation to empower the women on issues of property, custody and dignity. Existing organisations to help duped women victims of NRI marriages have not been able to do much. The NRI cell of the National Commission for Women, for instance, is understaffed and underfunded. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs provides some legal and financial help to Indian women in troubled situations abroad. However, the help is too small to be of any real benefit.

The proposed comprehensive legislation, while a step in the right direction, will make a real difference only if people are cautioned ahead of contracting such marriages. A part of the problem lies with the bride and her family. Anxious to go abroad they agree to marry an NRI without checking his antecedents. There are cases too where parents push the girl into a marriage by brushing aside issues of concern as ‘small problems.’ Such attitudes must change. There is only so much that supportive legislation can do. Creating awareness of rules, rights and risks involved is important.

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