India has seen a spurt in NRI marriages in recent times. With the promise of a better lifestyle and greater economic opportunities, many women with Indian citizenship are opting to marry Indians settled abroad. While this has led to the proliferation of a strong NRI diaspora, it has also led to a rise in deceptive marriages. Women are lured to an alien land where they face language constraints and have little idea about the justice system, and are then harassed for dowry or realise that their husbands are in a pre-existing relationship. In many cases, the marriage is purposely registered abroad by the groom so that it falls out of the jurisdiction of Indian laws and the women cannot avail of protective measures under Indian laws. Cases have also emerged where women have gotten married to NRIs, also known as ‘honeymoon brides’, paid huge sums of dowry, only to have the groom disappear overnight, never to be contacted again. Such fraudulent practices, made easier by online marriage portals, have put women at a serious risk and disadvantage. They are especially helpless in a foreign land, without social security, a support network etc. Over 25,000 such cases have been registered in India and over 20,000 Indian women have not seen their husbands after marriage. This problem is particularly pervasive in states like Punjab and Kerala.
In the absence of a specific law to deal with such offences, the role of NGOs in providing legal and social assistance becomes extremely prominent. SaristoSuits, based in Atlanta, United States, is one such NGO which has worked for the empowerment of Indian origin women in the US. It has partnered with prominent lawyer and social activist Abha Singh’s NGO RannSamar Foundation to provide justice to such helpless brides and put an end to the malaise of fraudulent NRI marriages. To further this cause, SaristoSuits released a Calendar for the year 2020 featuring South Asian women trailblazers, including Abha Singh. The Calendar aims to raise funds for women empowerment and against gender inequality and exploitation of women. The proceeds from the calendar sales will go towards providing social and legal assistance to women, including women bearing the brunt of NRI marriage frauds. RannSamar Foundation is an NGO that provides legal aid to the vulnerable sections of society and has taken on many cases of such NRI brides. It helps them take legal recourse against their husbands. They also aim to create awareness amongst the brides about their rights and the remedies they can avail in case any wrong has been done to them. Some of the remedies that can be availed are approaching the Embassy, filing a criminal suit in India under Section 498A for cruelty, etc.
Abha Singh is a powerful voice that can be heard on TV debates almost everyday on various channels. Her NGO RannSamar has been working relentlessly for empowering women and the girl child. She is running a legal Aid Cell to help the underprivileged. Being chosen as a Trailblazer by a US-based NGO is a salutation of the commendable work being done by her for the Social Cause. Patti Tripathi who runs the NGO SaritoSuits has been a Crusader for Gender Justice in the United States. She was the first Asian female News Anchor at CNN.
Please note: The article is contributed by Ms. Smruti Bhalerao, Founder, Prittle Prattle. Opinions expressed by Free Press Journal contributors are their own.