Women must register their marriage with NRIs, experts said.
“Before marrying non-resident Indians or persons of Indian origin, Indian women must verify their credentials through their network of family, friends or local Indian associations / bodies/ NGO’s in that country before marriage,” said Regional Passport Officer, Swati Kulkarni.
She added: “Marriage must be registered and all proof like marriage certificate, wedding invitation, photos , copy of husbands passport, driving licence etc. must be maintained along with a list of essential contacts like Indian embassies, NGO’s and legal organisations empaneled with ministry of external affairs(MEA).”
Kulkarni was speaking at a workshop on “Abandoned Indian Women Married to NRI Husbands and Way Out” organised by Ministry of External Affairs , Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Centre for the Study of Social Change.
Kulkarni said that not only woman must be aware of their rights and understand provisions under law, but such women must have a bank account, understand laws of the country, learn local language, and remain in touch with friends and family.
She also said that in case the woman is deserted by her husband in India, she must register case under Sec 498A of IPC. Women can also approach the NRI cell of National Commission of Women. Outside India, she can register a case under Sec 188 of Cr PC, approach local police, embassy and also contact employer. If a woman is deserted within 15 years of marriage in India or abroad, MEA provides financial help of $3000 in developed countries and $2000 in developing countries to poor women.
Jayan Sao, director, Protector of Emigrants, said that 9 lakh emigrants go abroad to Gulf for jobs every year, out of which almost 5 lakh emigrants require ECR. These people are educated upto 10th standard and are vulnerable to exploitation. 10 lakh verified employers are registered with MEA. Only registered and licenced recruiting agents by MEA are authorised people to send abroad.
He added that due to increasing exploitation of nurses , in 2015, nurses were included in ECR category. The government provides insurance of Rs 10 lakh to all emigrants under Pravasi Bhartiya Bima Yojana with a premium of Rs 275. All emigrants are given a one day pre-orientation training.
Sao also explained the modus operandi by which poor women in Mumbai, Telangana and Hyderabad, among other places, are trapped by unregistered brokers and agents in fake marriages and illegally taken to Middle East. Later these women are abandoned.
“Due to illegal documents, such women are not able to make complaints and seek help. These women are uneducated and hold ECR passports. These women are then employed as housemaids for two years. This causes double jeopardy as besides denial of protection, welfare and insurance benefits by the Indian government such women are not able to come back without an exit visa given by her employer under the law. If the person is keeping her as a slave he will not give it,” said Sao.
The office rescued 168 women in 2016 and 112 in 2107 who were trafficked abroad. Though Maharashtra has a low number of emigrants , 47% recruiting agents are based in Maharashtra. Most emigration was to Saudi Arabia, followed by UAE, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.
Sao emphasised the importance of eLocker facility with MEA where the emigrant can access all important documents like passport copy, visa copy, signed employment contracts and genuine employers, recruiters, agents, verification and details of NRI etc especially for Gulf by logging on their website and through toll free number.
In a panel discussion moderated by former Mumbai mayor Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar on “Protecting the Legal Rights of abandoned Indian woman married to NRI husband and Provision for legal aid”, Sajan Oommen, former president ,Family Court Bar Council Association said: “In practise there is no enforcement of court orders . Such issues are very casually dealt by the police and judiciary.”
“In many cases the wife has come back to India, filed petition of restitution of conjugal rights and even before the petition gets numbered, the husbands get decree of divorce in foreign countries.
“With too many unnecessary procedures and prolonged delay, the person remarries and has children. Despite India being a signatory to Hague Convention, there is zero enforcement. The government must help women facing difficulties in foreign countries,” he said.