Law must do more to help ‘outcast wives’

family law

The law must be amended to better help “outcast wives”, a London charity insists.

Women from Asia can be exploited and abandoned in the UK by husbands who merely use an arranged marriage agreement to secure a dowry payment. Once they have it, they simply leave their “outcast wives” stranded here with very few legal options.

According to Southall Black Sisters (SBS), such women find it extremely difficult to secure a divorce in their home country and British visa entry rules can make legal help next to impossible to find. The SBS is a charity which supports ethnic minority women who are the victims of violence and abuse.

Radhika Handa is a barrister who works with the SBS. She said the group wanted “better harmonisation of law so a woman granted a divorce in one country can have it recognised in another”. There should also be better co-ordination between nations on this matter so “if a woman is denied a right by sending her to another country, she is not stuck in international limbo”.

Speaking to the BBC, the SBS director Pragna Patel said the group was “only beginning to scratch the surface of the problem”. Asian women brought to the UK can be victims of “physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse” before they are eventually discarded by their husbands. Patel explained that for some of these women, the dowry demands continue even after they marry and “ultimately when they cannot meet the demands they are abandoned”.

Last year, a 21 year-old man in India went on the run from the police after his wife discovered he had married four times previously. Before this revelation, the man had received a substantial dowry from the bride’s family.

Photo by James Chew via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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3 comments

Ned - February 28, 2017 at 9:19am

I rail against exploitive women — but I will also vehemently denounce exploitative men.

It is only fair. People who exploit others for their own selfish ends deserve the full force of the law descending on them.

Unfortunately, that does not always happen — whatever the gender.

I’m for anything that “evens things up”. Good luck to the SBS (Southall Black Sisters). Theirs is a just cause — too.

It is particularly disheartening to learn of a very young man who was already “married four times”, in order to receive “a substantial dowry from EACH bride’s family.”

I feel for them: ANYBODY who selfishly takes someone to the cleaners in the name of something so personal as “marriage” deserves the utmost opprobrium — and a heavy jail sentence.

Sadly, as I say, so often it doesn’t happen.

Andrew - February 28, 2017 at 8:03pm

The difficulty with saying that “if a woman gets a divorce in one country she can have it recognised in another” is that it would have to apply to men too – and there are excellent reasons for restricting the recognition of talaq divorces pronounced by men domiciled or resident here.

Stitchedup - March 1, 2017 at 9:30am

In the UK we effectively have one law for men and another for women already in the family and criminal courts. I’m sure they’ll find a around this hurdle.

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