There are several cases in India where parents marry their girls to NRIs and send them off to foreign lands, never to hear from them again. Or girls are abused for dowry once they reach abroad. To resolve this problem, the Law Ministry has discovered the Foreign Marriages Act, 1969 which has been there in the constitution but remains unknown to people.

The Law Ministry explained to the Rajya Sabha Committee of Petitions on Friday that this 47-year-old act has provisions to help women in unhappy marriages to NRI’s.  A petition asking for a solution to the problem of abuse and ill treatment faced by Indian women in NRI marriages led to the meeting of the committee with the top officials of the Law Ministry and the Home Ministry.

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The most common problems as reflected by media are that the husband brings a wife from India and marries another woman abroad or already has a wife there and still gets married in India again. Dowry is also a big issue in such marriages where not just the husband, but also the in-laws harass the woman.

The members who were present at the meeting claimed that not many people are aware of such a law. This law came into existence only to legalise marriages of citizens of India outside the country. Now what’s more important is Section 14 of this law which notifies that when such kind of marriages happen, both the parties need to get it certified by the Marriage officer in the Marriage Certificate Book and sign it along with three other witnesses. The certificate will be evidence of the fact that such a marriage between an Indian and an NRI has happened and that the requirements of the residence of the party agreed before marriage and the signatures of the witnesses have been followed.

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While other personal laws can also be applied but a marriage registered under this act will only be governed by it. The government has now has asked for a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) from the committee which will be followed in any case of NRI marriage where wives are abandoned. This came into picture after the WCD minister Maneka Gandhi got a large number of complaints of a similar nature.  She then met with Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, to come to a solution after which a committee was set up and the parliamentary meeting happened. As soon as the SOP is prepared, Swaraj will extend it to all the Indian Diplomatic missions in the world.

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