Newt In A Tea Cup

{February 23, 2007}   …T’ill my mood does us part…

February 24, 2007
Married and abandoned – the 30,000 wives ‘duped by Westerners’
Jeremy Page in Barapind

October 28, 2002, was the happiest day of Parveen Paul’s life: she was 26 years old, newly graduated from university and she was getting married.

What is more, within three months she planned to leave her village in Punjab and move to Bedford to live with her new British Indian husband.

As she watched the 300 guests dancing and feasting on sticky Punjabi sweets at the Anand Palace wedding hall, her head spun with excitement.

“I felt like I could fly,” she said , leafing through the wedding album that she keeps under her bed. “What a joke.”

Five years after her wedding, Mrs Paul is still sitting in her village with no hope of joining her husband in Britain and few prospects of marrying again.

She is one of tens of thousands of Indian women abandoned by Indian émigré husbands — many of them British — after hastily arranged marriages.

Some husbands simply lose interest after their brides fail to obtain visas, but many pocket their wives’ dowries or demand money to support their visa applications.

Others are already married and use their Indian brides as “holiday wives”, often leaving them to bring up children on their own.

There are no official statistics, partly because so few victims speak out, but the Government estimates that 30,000 Indian women have been duped in this way since 2004.

Of them, an estimated 15,000 come from Mrs Paul’s native district of Doaba, which accounts for the majority of Punjabi émigrés.

“This is ruining the lives of thousands of Indian women,” said B. S. Ramoowalia, an MP and former Cabinet minister, who is campaigning against the practice.

“The boys in Britain or wherever have absolutely no fear of any legal action against them in India. They can exploit this craze for emigration.” The problem is not new: Indians, especially in Punjab, have long regardedthe marriage of a daughter to an Indian émigré as a way to get the whole family to the West.

It has become so acute in the past two years that the Indian Government now wants Britain and other Western countries to deport errant husbands. It also wants Western governments to carry out background checks on nonresident Indians (NRIs) applying for Indian visas to find out if they are already married.

It wants foreign laws tightened to stop NRI husbands getting divorces without the wife being represented in court, and it is drafting new laws at home to protect abandoned wives’ rights. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs announced that women who are divorced or deserted within two years of marriage to NRIs would be entitled to legal and financial aid of up to $1,000 (£510).

“We need more dialogue because it has become like a disease in the last few years,” Girja Vyas, head of India’s National Commission for Women, said.

“We are also raising awareness in India so these girls realise that all that glitters is not gold.”

The British Government has yet to receive any formal requests from India, although British officials say that they have also become increasingly concerned about the problem.

Mrs Paul and her husband, Gulshan first met through a relative when he came to look for a bride in October 2002. He was divorced and a little on the old side at 35, but she was marrying late and could not afford to be picky. Also, his family did not want a dowry.

So the two families arranged a meeting and six days later the couple were married. Three days after that Mrs Paul applied for a British visa and Mr Paul returned to Bedford alone.

The problems began when her visa application was turned down because the couple falsely stated that they had known each other for two years.

Mr Paul says that was a genuine mistake. Mrs Paul says he instructed her to lie on the application form and then deliberately contradicted her in front of consular officials. She also alleges that her husband demanded 500,000 rupees (£6,000) to continue supporting her visa application. When she refused he filed for divorce in Britain.

“That’s a lie,” Mr Paul said. “Why would someone in Britain demand money from someone in India?” He says he helped his wife to appeal the High Commission’s decision twice and filed for divorce only when it was clear that she could not live in Britain.

“I’m ready to live with her in the UK but I don’t want to move to India — what would I do there?” he said. “Her family must accept that the marriage is over and find a new husband while she is young enough.”

That is easier said than done in a small village in Punjab, where divorced women are strongly stigmatised.

“I want him to come back to get divorced and face trial here,” Mrs Paul said. “He took my youth. Now my life is ruined.”

Wedding list

For a husband or wife to be allowed to settle in Britain, the married couple must:

— Prove the marriage is legal and that they have met

— Prove that they intend to live together permanently

— Prove that the British partner can support the emigrating partner without relying on public funds — providing evidence in the form of bank statements or a letter from their employer

— Show that they will live in unshared accommodation

— Fiancées are also eligible, provided the couple can show that they plan to marry within a reasonable time, usually six months If a man has more than one wife, only one will be allowed to join him in the UK

Source: UK Government

The thing that strikes me about this is the very strong dependence that the women have on men. The woman in the first paragraph is educated at university, strong, and still she hinges completely on her absent husband. Their financial, social and emotional standing is literally in these guys hands and yet the alternative isn’t that great either – why else would you marry someone you’ve only known for a week?

With the rate of marriage in the UK at an all time low this reinforces what’s been there all along. For no matter how beautiful a loving, mutual, equal marriage can be, it is founded in a tradition of ownership. Perhaps the women are valued, but in the same way as property, and harm against them is a type of human vandalism. For women dependent on men to live a marriage is joyful because she is now told she is guaranteed a good meal and bed. However what she is told is not always true. If a guy doesn’t place much worth in his “property” it is much too easy for him to throw her away without a second glance. I’m not saying they should stay with those jerks but they have to bear an unjust weight of consequences. A single, older and especially divorced women is obviously a disgrace- why else would he have left her?

Women don’t have a leg to stand on either way. Doomed if you’re married, doomed if you aren’t. Marriage has not been a successful institution because it was a success in of itself. It’s been successful because for many women there aren’t many other options. That and dowries, which don’t exists here any more and are also illegal in India but still common. It’s the physical gain from the union that has always been at the forefront.

It’s so important to teach all women how to develop financial independence – one of the reasons why the pay gap needs to be universally closed. Women should never have to be scared of being single, and they should never suffer for their partners thoughtless actions in such a way. Being in control of your finance, of what you own is a huge part of this.

Don’t be scared to end up single. That is not alone. Single can be one of the most satisfying states of being if you are comfortable with yourself and secure with the world, emotionally and financially and intellectually.

It is when you have had your promise of love and protection grabbed away from your hands and are left gasping for it, that true loneliness invades.

When your self is dependent on someone else- when that someone haunts your self respect without caring; One can be very alone with that company.


Bea says:

How beautifully written (the last part by you, that is).

“When your self is dependent on someone else”

well said – the above can NEVER work because you are looking out side of your self for someone else on which to hang your self worth. This must come from within, this is similar to how many religions work.

tcupnewt says:

Exactly- I believe that there is no point in having “another half”, or “someone to make you complete”. If you aren’t complete and happy living with your own self adding someone else to the mix will only create more problems.
The problem is that society gears us to be outwardly dependant on others through finance etc… so that it becomes harder to define your complete self independently because the mental and physical world are so linked.

The link to religion is also clear- I think that’s because this is basically about spiritual self-reliance, wholeness and understanding.

So true newt – as long as you are searching *out there* for whatever… you are detracting from your own journey to wholeness. As my fantastic therapist and guru (yes I am that lucky) said, “remember what you are looking for – you already are” once you fully internalise this concept, it is the most liberating feeling there is.

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