Parminder Kaur (name changed) says she had a fairy tale wedding in 2015 and the next 40 days were the best of her life.
But after her husband left for Canada to resume his studies, things changed. Her in-laws regularly assaulted her—both verbally and physically—and demanded a dowry of Rs 1 lakh every month from her parents.
“They told my parents they need the money to feed me and when my parents refused to pay it they used to abuse me,” she said.
Then one day, her in-laws quietly fled to Canada and that was the last she heard from them or her husband who remarried after giving ex-parte divorce to 19-year-old Parminder.
Now, she and some other women who had the same plight want special transnational laws that could make extradition of absconding husbands possible.
Shilpa (name changed), 30, was working with an IT company before marrying in 2010 and migrating to the US.
“As soon as I landed in California, my husband took away my documents and money. He raped me regularly before throwing me out on the street. I was left with nothing and was forced to return,” she said.
She now lives with her 8-year-old daughter in Delhi. She lodged a complaint with the police but her husband has not returned since.
“I recently saw on social media that he remarried. How is this fair and why is he not being held accountable?” she asks.
Smriti (name changed) was another victim who was abandoned by her husband in Melbourne, following which she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD and still suffer from it. This is what abandonment does to you. You live in the aftermath of sexual assault, deceit from a person you loved the most,” she said.
“What’s compounding the agony everyday is how these men could have absolutely normal lives while destroying the lives of not only women but also their families. Nobody is prosecuted,” she rued.
Women should be able to actually see that men have some kind of stigma associated with their presence because right now the common problem is that these men are living their lives while women are suffering, Smriti said.
Parminder, Smriti and Shilpa feel transnational laws can give women like them some level of justice.
They demanded that there is also a need to bring larger group of offences like rape, assault, fraud and deceit under the 498A of IPC (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), that could lead to extradition of the absconders possible.
At present, cases of abandonment of wives are registered under 498A of IPC (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 406 (criminal breach of trust).
A senior ministerial official said they are trying to address these increasing number of problems associated with NRI marriages.
“There are a number of provisions that the government has proposed to stop these. These provisions include compulsory registration of NRI marriages within a week and holding the property of the absconding husband in escrow,” the official said.
The government recently cancelled passports of 33 non-resident Indians or NRIs for abandoning their wives, the official said.
The Integrated Nodal Agency made to look into the matter has been issuing look-out circulars to absconding husbands in cases of NRI marriages and till now, 8 circulars have been issued and 33 passports impounded by the External Affairs Ministry, a senior official said.
The WCD Ministry has also said that a detailed proposal, including points like mandatory registration of NRI marriages within one week with penal consequences for non-registration, would be placed before the Cabinet for its approval.
Moreover, the government had said last month that it will introduce a Bill in the winter session of Parliament for more stern measures against non-resident Indian husbands abandoning their wives in India. But till now no such bill has been tabled.
But these women are demanding that such men should be extradited back to India and tried here for their crimes.
Activist Indu Agnihotri called for concrete measures to deal with such absconding husbands.
“When the government takes up women issues they do it selectively. This session of Parliament has been dealing with a very specific issue concerning women (triple talaq) but this issue (women abandoned by their husbands) has not come up at all,” she said.
“We are asking the government to specially intervene on behalf of these women who are Indian citizens. The government cannot abandon them. What we are talking is certain regulatory laws and steps to be taken within India an Indian mission abroad so that this law helps in getting justice for women,” she said.