London: Some British Indian men are among a broader South Asian group in the UK who are guilty of mistreating and abandoning their wives in their countries of origin, a new report by a UK University has found.
Lincoln University’s ‘Disposable Women: Abuse, Violence and Abandonment in Transnational Marriages’ described the practice as an emerging form of violence against women, “especially in the context spanning the UK and the Indian sub-continent”.
“Abandonment of wives by non-resident Indian (NRI) men in transnational marriages has become a widespread phenomenon. Although the focus of this report is on the specific experience of abandoned women in India experience shows that their appalling accounts of abuse and abandonment are also echoed by women from Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere,” the report said.
“Ongoing demands for dowry, and escalating violence where such demands could not be met, were significant contexts for abuse for the majority of the women. Inability to meet dowry demands eventually triggered abandonment for most of the women left with their in-laws,” it added.
The academics behind the report are now calling on the UK government to recognise the abuse of these so-called “disposable women” to be treated as domestic violence.
As part of its recommendations, the report concluded: “Women who once resided in the UK (no matter how briefly) should be treated in all respects as domestic violence victims Transnationally abandoned women should be issued with temporary visas to avail the UK’s Domestic Violence Rule.
“At the point of their visa application, British embassies abroad should give women a leaflet setting out their rights and entitlements under the UK immigration and family law.”
As most women tend to hide the fact that they have been abandoned by NRI husbands based in the UK, the academics spent more than a year finding 57 women in India who had experienced the phenomenon and were willing to share their stories.
Sundari Anitha, from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Lincoln, spoke to women personally affected on a number of trips to Punjab, Delhi and Gujarat.
“The stigma is massive and it even has an impact on other people in the family. So a woman’s sister will find it harder to get married. She will find it harder to get a job, she faces financial insecurity and she’s seen as damaged goods – primarily because the assumption that she had sex,” she said.
Pragna Patel, director of UK-based women’s rights group Southall Black Sisters, also worked on the report. She said abandonment can be prosecuted under existing laws, but “few, if any, perpetrators face any consequences”.
A UK Home Office spokesperson said: “This government will not tolerate abuse through marriage or other relationships. We will look carefully at any evidence of where further action might help to prevent abuse or support victims”.