This article doesn’t surprise me because this is similar to what my husband did to our children and me. He left us financially destitute after stealing all our assets and then fled the country to avoid Canadian laws. I struggled for 4 years to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I was powerless to change anything due to gaps and the lack of Canadian laws protecting families. I estimate the actions of my husband has cost Canadians upwards of $1 million. Click here or the pdf file to read the full report or an excerpt below.
Recommendations for the UK:
Given the systematic way in which women’s rights are being infringed, a comprehensive response is required from service providers, judiciary and policy makers, both at the national level in India and in countries with large Indian diasporas, such as the UK.
Immigration policy and practice:
1. Abandonment is a form of violence against women and most often deliberately perpetrated to defeat the rights of women, including their right to remain in the UK under the DV Rule. There is an urgent need for a stated policy in immigration rules to recognise the plight of women who once resided in the UK (no matter how briefly) but have since been abandoned abroad. There is an urgent need to recognise that such women should be entitled to claim under the Domestic Violence Rule (DV Rule) and the Destitution and Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession and to be treated in all respects as domestic violence victims.
2. Such women should be issued with temporary visas outside the rules, and without conditions attached. The visa should be granted under a stated policy to someone who is a potential witness/participant or party to legal proceedings. This will enable women to avail the DV Rule and initiate or engage in criminal and family or civil court proceedings.
3. Under the new appeal structure in the Immigration Act 2014, unlike human rights cases, domestic violence applications have been specifically excluded and do not attract a full right of appeal but simply an administrative review. This is inconsistent and unacceptable – victims of domestic violence need to have full rights of appeal. There can be no policy justification for stating that a domestic violence application is not an implicit human rights issue.
4. At the point of their visa application, British embassies abroad should automatically give women information in an accessible format that sets out their rights and entitlements in the UK under immigration and family law, including the right to protection from the civil and criminal courts.
Divorce and Family Matters:
1. Greater awareness and procedural checks and safeguards are necessary in divorce and family law processes in order to ensure that women who have been abandoned abroad have the opportunity to participate in family law proceedings on an equal footing. These include:
a) ‘Red flagging’ divorce cases where one party is abroad, by the central administration office processing divorce applications to ensure that these cases are subject to additional scrutiny;
b) Hearings of divorces involving foreign spouses should automatically go to the High Court;
c) Changes to service requirements in divorce petitions are needed where service is to take place abroad to help to safeguard against forgery in relation to issues of consent and acknowledgment of divorce petitions. For example, there could be a lengthier period of service (currently 6 weeks) of about 3 months and more stringent rules could be instituted in relation to the question of what is deemed to be service;
d) Procedures should be in place to allow for the party abroad to take part in proceedings remotely (by telephone and skype) as a matter of routine.
2. Consider reciprocal arrangements that allow for the enforcement of legal decisions concerning divorce, support, maintenance, residency and contact with children in contexts of overlapping jurisdictions. Mechanisms to address this could include ratifying bilateral or multilateral agreements with countries that have large diaspora populations in the UK
3. Consider a training programme for the judiciary to understand better the social realities of South Asian women who live abroad for whom divorce carries severe stigma and adverse financial, mental health welfare consequences. The judiciary needs to be better informed so that decisions on maintenance, children and property settlements avoid reinforcing and perpetuating gender discrimination and inequality.
4. There needs to be better judicial understanding of the practices of stridhan and dowry in divorce, maintenance and other financial settlements so that women are not left destitute and dependent on their own families. Stridhan and dowries should be perceived as pre-marital assets. The family court’s aim should be to restore the parties to the position they were in before marriage. The family courts should also adduce more expert evidence on dowry and stridhan issues where the recovery of dowry/stridhan is sought.
5. Consider financial compensation to reflect abandonment as a particularly aggravating form of abuse when making decisions around financial and property settlements upon divorce.
6. In cases involving children’s abduction and abandonment abroad, judicial guidance should insist that the immigration authorities allow the abandoned spouse to return to the UK to take part in the proceedings.
Other suggested avenues of redress:
1. The police should consider the possibility of bringing criminal proceedings in the UK where a crime is committed abroad by a British national or someone settled in the UK. Abandonment is domestic violence since it involves controlling and coercive behaviour.
2. Financial compensation to reflect abandonment as a particularly aggravating form of abuse should be considered in criminal proceedings.
Recommendations for India:
1. The provisions of the Punjab Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act 2012 – which records the passport number and details of non-resident spouses at the time of the registration of marriage – needs to be extended to other states.
2. Alongside the registration of marriage, the registration of dowry/stridhan given to the bride should also be made compulsory.
3. The process for selection of organisations under the Indian MOIA’s Scheme for giving legal / financial assistance to Indian women deserted by their overseas husbands (2011) needs to be transparent, and the effectiveness of the scheme needs to be evaluated.
4. There is a need for a mechanism to obtain redress and the enforcement of legal decisions concerning divorce, support and maintenance in contexts of split jurisdiction, including ratifying bilateral agreements with countries having a large Indian diaspora.
5. An ex-parte decree of divorce awarded to an Indian woman by a foreign court should be a basis on which she can seek a divorce in India. This will enable her to move out of the current legal limbo resulting from her inability to obtain a divorce without her husband’s presence and participation in court proceedings in India.
6. There is a need for raising awareness and providing information on this issue, and information about the law making the registration of marriages compulsory.