A petition posted on the Change.org website has requested the Indian government to pass the Registration of NRI Marriages law and fast track proceedings in cases where NRI husbands have abandoned their wives.
“My NRI husband abandoned me when I was 2 months pregnant. The shock led to a miscarriage. My in-laws kicked me out. I lost my home and job. He has still not been punished. Because there is no law to hold him accountable,” says a woman who has initiated the petition on Change.org.
“I am not alone. There are more than 40,000 other women in India who are staring at an uncertain future after men who married them left the country, sometimes never to return or even make a phone call,” reads the petition.
“For the women, the struggle is not only about dealing with a sense of abandonment, but also the trauma of liaising with local police officers, the ministry of external affairs, embassies and consulates across the world to bring their spouses to book,” it said.
India’s National Commission for Women says it has received 2,846 complaints from women who had been abandoned between 2017 and 2021. The Parliamentary Standing Committee also noted that 5,298 complaints related to Non-Resident Indian (NRI) marital grievances were received between January 2016 and October 2019. And between 2015 and 2019, the Indian government said it dealt with more than 6,000 cases.
The petitioner further adds, “My friend, Geeta Gupta*, had also got married in 2017. Her husband’s family took dowry and subjected her to harassment and physical abuse. He returned from Canada in November 2017; she fell pregnant but had a miscarriage. The man did not join the police investigation even after coming to India.”
“I have started a petition to appeal to the government to pass the Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha. I also request that fast track courts be linked up or established to deal with such cases separately without any delay. And the faster mode of investigation and filing of charge sheet in courts should be time-bound,” reads the petition.
According to the provisions of the Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019, every NRI who marries an Indian or another NRI will have to register the marriage within 30 days. If the person fails to do so, the passport authority may impound his passport.
Once the bill is passed, it will allow the victims to claim various rights related to marriage, including those for the children. The Standing Committee on the Empowerment of Women (2007) and the Law Commission of India (2009) have recommended that registration of marriage for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) be made mandatory. And the bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha.
Over 20,000 people have already signed the petition within the first 13 hours of its launch.
*names have been changed to protect identity.