In December 2017, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill was successfully passed by the Lok Sabha and provided respite to several women who have been victims of Triple Talaq – instant divorce by the husband on stating the word ‘talaq’ three times. Even though the Triple Talaq Bill, as it is popularly called, is moving at a slow pace in the Rajya Sabha, the fact that the rights of these women were considered is a step forward.
However, there are several other women who are fighting for their rights which is yet to be considered seriously by the government – the financial, physical, emotional abuse and abandonment of NRI wives.
According to a report by News18, 26-year-old Zubi Zaidin was married off to a well-settled NRI living in UAE in 2014. Just 2 months into the marriage, Zubi realised that her husband was much older than what he had previously proclaimed, wore a wig, and in fact already had a wife. The only reason why he married Zubi was to extract money in the name of dowry from her family. After declining her husband’s demands, Zubi was subjected to a long period of abuse and confinement, until she was brought back to India and abandoned, slapped with divorce papers.
“I soon realised that all they wanted was a homely Indian girl who can work as a ‘naukrani’ for my in-laws and cough up money as and when needed. They realised that keeping me in confinement in UAE was dangerous. When I stopped being compliant with their demands, they first turned violent and then tricked me back home”, said Zubi.
A lawyer by profession, Zubi decided to make her in-laws pay for their crime. She further opened an NGO called Still Alive Foundation where she gave other abandoned NRI wives to fight for justice. However, the present legislation has no grounds to help women like Zubi.
According to the data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs, 5,379 women had complained of being abandoned by their NRI husbands. According to SAF, more than 50,000 such cases are pending in Punjab alone. Since 2016, SAF has dealt with 44 cases of brides abandoned by NRIs mostly from the USA, followed by Australia and Canada.
The problem lies with prosecuting these cases. Delhi-based advocate Aman Usman said since the perpetrators are not physically present in India, it is difficult to send them warrants, let alone court summons. If such cases are to be tried in court, it cannot be done until the central government grants permission. In addition to this, Usman pointed out that there is an “inherent bias” to protect NRIs.
“Not just Muslims but women of all religions are just as easily abandoned by their husbands. Why is there no specific law for the case of fraud marriages and abandonment?”, said Zubi.
There is no specific law which protects the rights of these abandoned NRI wives. However, there are specific sections of the IPC that have been previously used to set these cases running. These include Section 498 that deals with cruelty to women and Section 420 which deal with cheating and dishonesty. Even laws concerning rape can be invoked.
With so many victims of NRI bride abandonment, we hope that the government takes notice of this soon.