Dear Home Secretary,
I would like to draw your attention to hidden scourge that has become ever more pervasive within the Indian community in the UK over the past few years – spousal abandonment of those especially on dependent visas.
It involves men – both British citizens or settled persons of Indian origin – who marry women from India, in most cases in an arranged marriage, inflict unspoken abuses on these women – from physical beatings to mental torture to economic abuse – before abandoning them in India.
This could be for a variety of reasons – a woman reporting domestic abuse to UK authorities; a woman standing up to her man; a woman’s family being unable to or refusing to hand over more money or jewellery as dowry; or simply in some cases where the husband feels that the relationship has run its course.
However, instead of ensuring the well being of their partners – who are in most cases women who have never stepped out of their family and social structures in their native India – these men will take their wives to India under the guise of “going on holiday” or “let’s sort it out in front of the family” then abandon them there.
In a distressingly large number of cases, the actions of these men follow a familiar pattern.
During this so-called “holiday” they will steal their partners’ passports and ID documents, specifically their BRP card (British Residency Permit). After fleeing they will promptly return to the UK. In most cases they inform the Home Office that their relationship has broken down so that by the time they abandon the partner in India, their visa is curtailed so they can’t travel back to the UK.
All this requires is a one-line form called the ‘Relationship Breakdown UKVI’ to the Home Office. The visas are cancelled within a matter of weeks, which stands in stark contrast to the long drawn out and arduous process of applying for a dependent visa in the first place.
The women are left abandoned and stranded in India – alone, blamed for “taking matters into their own hands” by going to the authorities to report domestic abuse or mental torture, and ostracized by the patriarchal communities that they hail from.
No amount of reporting the abuse in India brings them justice. When they contact the Met Police about their sufferings they are told they cannot be helped because they are in Indian jurisdiction.
The husbands, unwilling to afford these women such rights as maintenance, will disappear into their lives in the UK leaving the women married but in limbo.
I cannot tell you the number of women who have contacted my organization on the verge of suicide.
And it does not just affect individual women.
In a number of cases the women are abandoned along with the children (with the children’s British passports also stolen). When the approach British consulates in India for assistance, they are told to obtain “consent” letters from children’s fathers in order to have new travel documents issued – the same fathers who abandoned them in the first place.
As a result there are 100’s of British children stuck in India along with their mothers unable to return to the UK to fight for justice
Spousal abandonment has been a pervasive problem for many years despite it being a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code.
What is alarming is the fact that the perpetrators are almost always highly educated professionals working in varied fields such as IT and Banking and hail from respectable middle class families.
Since its establishment in 2015, my organization has dealt with dozens of cases of such abandonment.
The Indian government recently announced new measures to combat this – including the confiscation of the perpetrator’s assets in India and making it easier for abandoned women to pursue legal action against their partners and in-laws.
We believe that you are indirectly responsible for facilitating this type of abuse by NRI men through a policy that is ill thought-out and which enables abusers to use the letter of the law to destroy the lives of women. Following our last protest – outside Lunar House in 2017 – the Home Office issued a statement stating that it would take urgent steps to change the regulations. However, nothing has been done and the abuse has continued unimpeded – in fact, increasing alarmingly in 2018.
What’s more, the Indian government has also been stymied in its efforts to crackdown on this alarming practice because the abusers have used and abused the UK’s own laws and turned Britain into a safe haven for themselves.
Therefore, it is imperative that the problem also be addressed here in the UK – specifically by doing away with rules that allow men to cancel the dependent visas of their wives with a one-line email to the Home Office.
It is vital that the Home Office take into consideration the circumstances of the women as well – at the very least that they are “aware” of a separation and/or divorce.
– Indian Ladies UK (ILUK)
Indian Ladies UK is Britain’s largest community group for first generation migrant Indian women. Launched in 2015, we represent more than 30,000 women – a mixture of professionals, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms and every other imaginable category. A vast majority have accompanied their husbands to the west and make an immense contribution to this country, culturally and economically.
We plan to protest outside your office on Friday 14th December to reiterate our plea to you.