Fight for your right: This woman from Ludhiana helps abandoned brides rebuild their path
In India, where more than 40,000 women have been duped into marrying non-resident Indians (NRIs), this NGO is helping them find recourse and get what they deserve.
Pritam Kaur was just 18 years old when she got married. Shortly after her marriage, her husband moved to Canada, promising her they could immigrate together and start afresh in another country.
But things changed quickly. Kaur learned that her husband had another life in Canada, with a new family and kids. When Kaur looked for help through law enforcement, she was unable to file an First Information Report (FIR) against her husband as she could not provide visual evidence or documentation of their marriage, leaving the case unsolved.
Kaur is one among several thousands of women in India regularly duped into marrying non-resident Indians (NRIs) who live abroad in countries like Australia, Germany, and Canada. In India, more than 40,000 women are duped into marrying non-resident Indians (NRIs), as per The Fuller Project report.
Many such brides come to seek help from Satwinder Kaur, a 41-year-old Ludhiana resident who runs–Abb Nahi Welfare Society. The NGO is helping abandoned brides and grooms get justice.
“I have gone through a similar incident in my life and I understand the pain of such women. Through Abb Nahi Welfare Society, I wish to lessen the number of such cases, while helping these women in getting justice,” she tells HerStory.
When Satwinder Kaur was a school teacher in Ludhiana, she got married to a man who was also a teacher. After a few years of marriage, Kaur’s husband moved to Ukraine and promised to take her after some time, and she continued to live with his parents.
Five years later, he returned to India. Kaur forgot the past and decided to move on and live with him. However, Kaur’s husband had other plans. He relocated Kaur to a rented accommodation and assured her of joining him abroad in the near future. Later, he manipulated her into pursuing a divorce, claiming it would expedite the process of her joining him overseas. Upon seeking advice from a legal professional, she decided to decline his proposition.
Wehn she asked him to pay rent for the space she was living in, he refused. “I don’t want anything to do with you henceforth. You can do whatever you want with your life now,” he told Kaur.
Kaur recalls feeling disheartened. "Discovering that I had been deceived all along made me feel like I had wasted so many years of my life," she expresses with a heavy heart.
From then, it became Kaur’s aim in life to help women who have been abandoned by their NRI husbands and help them in getting justice. As such this led to the establishment of Abb Nahi Welfare Society in 2016.
When Kaur started out with Abb Nahi Welfare Society, she did not have enough support. Over the years, many women have joined the organisation. It has offered help to more than 900 women from Punjab, UP, and Gujarat. Her organisation has now extended their services to men going through similar cases. So far, the organisation has helped 100 men.
When a victim approaches the NGO, the process begins with going through their marriage proof and the girl’s identity proof, explains Kaur. After that, they begin with counselling both parties to understand where the problem is. This whole process takes about a month as the team pays home visits to each party.
“Sometimes, it is a misunderstanding that can be easily solved, while other times it is a case of pure injustice,” she says. In cases where the guilty party is clear, the organisation helps the victims get a divorce or settlement in order to get their lives back on track.
Once a police complaint is registered against the person living abroad, their passports are supposed to be impounded alongside their PRs getting cancelled, explains Kaur. “But it does not work like this in real life as complaints are not filed so efficiently. Additionally, the legal processes take a lot of time,” she adds.
In cases where the victim’s family is financially stable, they usually take care of the legal fees. However, in situations where the victim cannot afford the fees, the NGO collaborates with legal experts to secure pro bono assistance or legal representation at a reduced fee.
So far, it has not been an easy journey for Kaur. Managing finances continues to be a challenge. “I do have a team, but I don’t have money to pay them. So whosoever wants to associate with our cause, joins us,” she says.
Nonetheless, Kaur is hopeful that help needed will eventually be fulfilled. “I know what injustice and betrayal look like and I want to actually work hard to stop such cases from happening. But I hope we soon get some help so we can continue with our work,” she says.
Edited by Akanksha Sarma