According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) one NRI married woman calls home every eight hours seeking help. The Ministry of External Affairs received 3,328 complaints from married NRI women between January 1st 2015 and November 30, 2017. That is an average of more than three calls a day.
Most of the women called because they wanted help after their husbands had deserted them, or because their husbands were treating them badly and torturing them.
A large percentage of the women are from Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Men who marry women from India, often desert them. Oftentimes they marry another woman abroad or already have a wife there and still gets married in India again.
The number of women who need help maybe even more. Not all women complain, and not all complaint through the MEA. Chennai-based lawyer Sudha Ramalingam says that women reach out to her independently as well. Most of the complaints are from the US and Canada. "Just six weeks ago, there was a man working with Qatar Airlines harassing his wife. She reached out to me after great difficulty and we've just managed to get her separated from her husband," she said.
Maneka Gandhi takes measures:
Maneka Gandhi has set up the Integrated Nodal Agency, which is an inter-ministerial body to examine the issues faced by women in NRI marriages. The INA has decided that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will launch a website to post summons issued against absconding husbands.
The Law ministry will also initiate the process of amendment of relevant laws to make registration of NRI marriages compulsory.
Recently there has been a lot of attention around ‘Visa Wives,’ women who get married to men working on an H1-B visa in America. They are on a dependent visa and are thus kept out of the workforce.
"When a wife enters the United States on a dependent spouse visa, she enters at the wish of her husband. Her dependent immigration status allows her husband to control her ability to live in the United States and all rights that stem from that status,” Sabrina Balgamwalla, an assistant law professor at the University of North Dakota, has written in a paper. Thus, they are more vulnerable to their husbands, and are almost helpless in their situations.