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New study highlights abuse and abandonment in transnational marriages

1st July 2016
New study highlights abuse and abandonment in transnational marriages

Abuse, violence and abandonment are real problems in transnational marriages, according to a new study published by the University of Lincoln earlier this year.

The report defines transnational marriage abandonment as abandonment of foreign national wives in their country of origin by their husbands who are nationals or residents of another country, which is particularly prevalent in marriages which span the UK and the Indian subcontinent.

Due to the intersection of marriage and migration, women who find themselves abandoned in their country of origin are unable to file for divorce or seek financial aid from their spouses, something which the report calls a deliberate infraction of their legal rights to protection, support and rehabilitation.

One woman who experienced transnational marriage abandonment, referred to as M, spoke in front of the Houses of Parliament early last month. She detailed how her husband lured her back to Pakistan on the pretence of a family wedding, but on arrival, her in laws confiscated her and her childrens passport. Her husband, a British national, then returned to the UK and when the rest of his family followed, M and her children were left homeless and destitute.

While Ms story on its own is heartbreaking, the report states that the number of women who have been transnationally abandoned by their husbands could be in the thousands. It took M seven years to be granted a visa for re-entry into the UK, and though shes settled in the north of England, she has another battle to fight for her right to remain.

The fact that we live in a far smaller world where international travel is much easier than it was 100, or even 50 years ago, means that the way in which women experience abuses against both their person and their human rights has also changed. The report concludes with a number of recommendations for changes in UK and international law. They are as follows:

Immigration policy and practice:

  • Women who once resided in the UK (no matter how briefly) should be entitled to claim under the Domestic Violence Rule (DV Rule) and the Destitution and Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession and be treated in all respects as domestic violence victims.
  • Transnationally abandoned women should be issued with temporary visas to avail the DV Rule and initiate or engage in criminal and family or civil court proceedings.
  • Victims of domestic violence need full right of appeal under the Immigration Act 2014.
  • 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.

Divorce and family matters:

  • 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.
  • The UK government should 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.
  • There is a need for 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 and welfare consequences.
  • There needs to be better judicial understanding of the practices of stridhan (gifts voluntarily given to the bride from her parents) and dowry in divorce, maintenance and other financial settlements so that women are not left destitute and dependent on their own families.

The full report on transnational marriage abandonment can be read here.

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