Wife abandonment is a growing concern in some communities and requires early intervention. Women from some Asian communities are being used for money and goods then abandoned by their newly wedded British Asian husbands.
According to a BBC report (By Catrin Nye and Divya Talwar. 2016) academics from the University of Lincoln discovered that, these men’s motives for marrying temporarily is due to financial gain. Other motives include using their wives as slaves for their in-laws and for dowry payments (which often involves large sums of money and expensive good like gold and other possessions).
In addition to financial gain, new wives are occasionally transported to the UK temporarily then sent back home to their place of origin for “holiday” (after child birth). Their passports are ceased and destroyed by their husbands – preventing them from having access to their child (ren) in the UK.
Dr Sundari Anitha (School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Lincoln) stated that, the “patriarchal culture in South Asia means being abandoned can ruin a woman’s life. The stigma is massive, and it even has an impact on other people in the family. So a woman’s sister will find it harder to get married. She will find it harder to get a job, she faces financial insecurity and she’s seen as damaged goods – primarily because the assumption is she’s had sex.”
The emotional impact of abandonment on a new wife can be traumatic and cause significant emotional and mental distress. In cases of abandonment, blackmail, domestic violence, modern slavery, fraud, sexual abuse, financial abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour can be detected which further places a wife (and children) at risk of significant harm.
Challenges faced when dealing with wife abandonment
A major challenge faced when dealing with wife abandonment is the issue of immigration. Often, a perpetrator (a British Citizen) cons a victim (a non- British Citizen) into the dowry payment and leaves for the UK with no intention of returning. In cases like this, the UK government is limited with the support it can offer to the victim who lives outside its continent.
The fear of being stigmatised is another challenge that prevents victims from reporting this crime. As stated above, the stigma associated to wife abandonment means that family members are affected too.
What can be done about this issue?
It has been suggested that, due to the abuse faced (emotional abuse, financial abuse, modern slavery) by victims the British state should “recognise abandonment as a form of domestic violence and offer protection to women “disposed of” by their British men, even if they never travel to the UK”. It was also suggested that due to the abuse suffered by victim’s prosecution under existing laws should be exercised.
Wife abandonment is a harmful practice. Openly challenging wife abandonment in our communities and raising awareness about this practice should minimise and or eliminate the stigmas and shame associated with it.
Support services available for victims of this practice
Southall Black Sisters is a UK not-for-profit organisation meeting the needs of Black (Asian and African-Caribbean) women. The aim of this service is to challenge all forms of gender related violence against women. The service also empowers women by helping them “gain control over their lives; live without fear of violence and assert their human rights to justice, equality and freedom”.
Southhall Black Sisters offer specialist advice, information, casework, Immigration problems support, advocacy, counselling and self-help support services in several community languages (especially South Asian languages). Helpline: 02085710800- General enquiries: 02085719595.
For victims residing in India, The National Commission of Women is an organisation in India created to protect and promote the interests of women. Contact details: Address: Plot-21, Jasola Institutional Area, New Delhi – 110025 , Telephone No. – 011-26944740, 26944896, 26942369, 26944754, 26944805
Reunite international is a leading charity specialising in “international parental child abduction and the movement of children across international borders”. This charity has dealt with cases of spouse abandonment and specialise in cases whereby victims are denied access of their children. They can be contacted on: +44 (0) 1162 556 234.
References and further Reading