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The suicide of an Indian origin, Mandeep Kaur, claiming to have been beaten up for years by her husband, has triggered a storm on social media with women’s rights groups, especially those fighting against domestic abuse and violence of South Asian women.
Mandeep who stayed in New York, committed suicide on August 3. In a video she had posted online before her death she accused her husband Ranjodhbir Singh of abusing her for eight years. The video was shared on a social media platform by members of the Kaur Movement, an online portal that fights and raises awareness on violence against South Asian women.
Mandeep, who is survived by two children, tearfully narrated her plight in the video. Her death has put the spotlight once again on the plight of NRI wives who are often victimized by their partners who often assault them and abandon them. Groups like the Kaur Movement have also put up posters in New York seeking justice for Mandeep.
Another group, Sikh Women’s Aid, said in a tweet that Mandeep Kaur, a 30-year-old married Sikh Punjabi woman disclosed her “deep unhappiness due to domestic abuse throughout her married life.”
The statement issued by the group on Twitter, says: “She describes a life of abuse, belittling and violence to such extreme levels that we are unable to share any of the videos and pictures that clearly show her bleeding and bruised.” “The Sikh community is in a crisis, the number of deaths of women due to domestic abuse is rising. There is collective ownership on every single one of us to challenge and support victims of abuse.”
Kaur Movement members along with several Punjabi community members and Indians held a protest outside the house of Mandeep’s husband, demanding justice. Members of the Kaur Movement also said that they have been in touch with the NYPD to ensure that Mandeep’s body is sent back to her parents in India, her children are rescued, and that suitable punitive action is taken against the husband.
The exact scope of the problem can be somewhat gauged from this reply that India’s minister for external affairs had made in the Rajya Sabha in 2020. In reply to a question, the minister had said: “This Ministry, including our Missions and Posts abroad, have received 3,955 complaints during the last three years, from 2017 to 2019, related to matrimonial disputes from married women of Indian citizenship.”
Taking into account the growing instances of marital disputes and to provide a more effective solution, a Bill titled “The Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019” was introduced in Rajya Sabha on 11 February 2019.
“The government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to address the issues of domestic violence, harassment and other matrimonial disputes faced by Indian women abroad. Complaints can be received directly by missions and posts and the ministry through letters or calls or grievance portals or in social media. On receipt of a complaint, the ministry provides counseling and guidance to the complainant. The ministry provides information about legal rights and procedures to be followed to file a criminal complaint in any court in India,” the minister said.
On July 11, the National Commission for Women launched a series of ‘Awareness Programmes on NRI Marriages: Do’s and Don’ts, A Way Forward’ across different districts of Punjab to disseminate information on the possible risks involved in NRI marriages, and to create awareness around preventive measures and legal remedies available for victims.
Rekha Sharma, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, said that it is very important that girls are given equal opportunities as boys especially in education so that she is empowered and independent. “These awareness programs will be successful only if families and societies change their mindset. Kindly be aware and do all the proper checks before getting your daughters married. It is our collective responsibility to uproot this evil. NCW is committed to raise awareness across the state and we request you to join hands with us,” she said.
The awareness programs are being held in collaboration with the Department of Law, Punjab University, and in association with SGPC, Punjab State Legal Service Authority, Punjabi University, Guru Nanak Dev University, Panchayats, NGOs and the local police. The program aim to familiarize victims of NRI marriages of their rights. The sessions will also deliberate upon the challenges faced by aggrieved women in getting substantial relief through remedies available under the Indian legal system and to seek possible solutions to effectively reduce them.