Transnational Marriage Abandonment

Transnational marriage abandonment is a form of domestic abuse. It involves the deliberate removal of vulnerable migrant women from the protections of this country by their husbands and in-laws who discard them abroad as if they were disposable commodities. It is an extreme form of psychological abuse since it denies women access to justice in the UK. It amounts to a gross violation of dignity and human rights.
Southall Black Sisters (SBS) has been campaigning for the family justice system and immigration authorities to bring marital abandonment within legislation and policy on domestic violence and to take positive steps to tackle this and provide remedies for victims and their children.

What is it?

Many South Asian women, in particular, contact SBS with appalling accounts of abuse and abandonment. The practice involves abusive British national or British resident husbands deliberately disposing of unwanted wives in their countries of origin where they are often at risk of violence, exploitation, poverty, destitution and social stigma. Sometimes women are cruelly separated from their children; others are abandoned with their children in situations of near destitution. Women are left trapped in abusive and limping marriages and in circumstances that involve the deliberate infraction of their legal rights to protection, support and rehabilitation. The University of Lincoln published vital research in 2016 which highlighted the scale of the problem and the devastating consequences for women in India where the practice is also related to dowry-abuse and violence.

Until recently, this problem was little understood in law, policy and practice in the UK.

What has SBS done?

On 4 February 2016, SBS and the University of Lincoln launched the report Disposable Women: Abuse, Violence And Abandonment in Transnational Marriages: Issues For Policy And Practice in the UK and India at the Houses of Parliament.

Since then, alongside an expert working group of academics and family and immigration law practitioners, SBS has been lobbying extensively for change in both family and immigration policy.

Media

We have highlighted the problem through the media including the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire and Inside Out London on reports on abandonment. Some of our users have been brave enough to speak out about their experiences of abandonment in the hope of changing the law and attitudes to this little understood but significant form of gender-based violence.

Family Justice System

Since April 2016, SBS set up a sub-working group worked to change family law and practice in this area and has worked closely with the now-retired President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, on improving outcomes for abandoned women in the Family Justice System. We published a series of articles on transnational marriage abandonment in Family Law journal and were also invited by the President to make a presentation to senior family judges in May 2017. As a result of our campaigning, transnational marriage abandonment was included for the first time in the definition of domestic abuse in the revised Practice Direction 12J: Child Arrangements and Contact Orders: Domestic Abuse and Harm.

We warmly welcome this development and hope that the revised Practice Direction will mean that family courts will now be more responsive to abandoned women who wish to assert their legal rights to property, maintenance, dowry and children upon divorce.

However, we believe that there is still much to be done to ensure that victims of this pernicious form of abuse can access justice and obtain appropriate remedies. Within the family justice system, there is a need for more awareness of transnational abandonment and training within the judiciary, legal profession, and Cafcass. Cases should be heard by judges with an appropriate level of seniority, and with effective liaison taking place between the family court and immigration authorities. In terms of divorce and financial remedy, there is a need for greater scrutiny of divorce cases where the wife cannot respond as she is out of country, to ensure that if she has been abandoned there she can seek a remedy; and for a more streamlined process to enforce the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1972 so that an abandoned wife can enforce maintenance orders that are issued in her country of origin.

Immigration

We have also set up another subgroup of immigration law practitioners which has been working with the Home Office to create awareness of the issue and reduce the opportunities for perpetrators to abuse and abandon women with impunity. We have urged the Home Office to respond to the specific ways in which immigration law and policy exacerbates the victimisation of migrant women who are prevented from returning to the UK to assert their rights in relation to divorce, children and financial and property matters.

It is vital that transnational marriage abandonment is recognised in the cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse (and any definition include in the forthcoming bill), and specifically in immigration policy and guidance. More must be done to ensure that spouses who have been subject to transnational abandonment are able to return to the UK where they were resident before the abandonment to assert their rights under immigration law as victims of domestic violence under the DV Rule and the DDV Concession. For example, currently a woman who is abandoned in her country of origin cannot apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under the domestic violence rule – when she would be able to if the marriage had broken down due to domestic violence within the UK. These women should be enabled to apply for ILR, and should also not be subjected to ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions on re-entry into the UK.

There is also a clear need for the UK’s immigration system to act in a way that acknowledges and combats transnational abandonment. This includes providing clear guidance to entry clearance officers when considering visa applications from abandoned spouses; acting on Family Court requests for the return of abandoned mothers to the UK and ending the practice of revoking spouses’ visas on the instructions of abusive spouses without first undertaking an investigation into the circumstances of the case which often reveals a pattern of abuse and coercive control.

How you can help

Further Reading

Academic Articles/Reports

Jahangir, S. (2015) Stranded Spouses and Immigration Control, Family Law Week, March 2015

Anitha, S., Roy, A. and Yalamarty, H. (2016) Disposable women: Abuse, violence and abandonment in transnational marriages. Lincoln: University of Lincoln.

Anitha, S., Patel, P., Handa, R. and Jahangir, S. (2016) Emerging issues for international family law Part 1: Transnational marriage abandonment as a form of domestic violence. Family Law Journal, 46 (10). p. 1247

Jahangir, S., Anitha, S., Patel, P., and Handa, R. (2016) Emerging issues for international family law Part 2: Possibilities and challenges to providing effective legal remedies in cases of transnational marriage abandonment. Family Law Journal, 46 (11), p. 1352

Patel, P., Handa, R., Anitha, S., Jahangir S. (2016) Emerging issues for international family law: Part 3: Transnational marriage abandonment and the dowry question. Family Law Journal, 46 (12), p. 1443

Videos

Southall Black Sisters’ Support Group: My Second Name is Dowry

BBC News: The wives abandoned by British Asian men

BBC Inside Out: Outcast Brides

Blogs and Articles

Transnational Marriage Abandonment

Transnational marriage abandonment is a form of domestic abuse. It involves the deliberate removal of vulnerable migrant women from the protections of this country by their husbands and in-laws who discard them abroad as if they were disposable commodities. It is an extreme form of psychological abuse since it denies women access to justice in the UK. It amounts to a gross violation of dignity and human rights.
Southall Black Sisters (SBS) has been campaigning for the family justice system and immigration authorities to bring marital abandonment within legislation and policy on domestic violence and to take positive steps to tackle this and provide remedies for victims and their children.

What is it?

Many South Asian women, in particular, contact SBS with appalling accounts of abuse and abandonment. The practice involves abusive British national or British resident husbands deliberately disposing of unwanted wives in their countries of origin where they are often at risk of violence, exploitation, poverty, destitution and social stigma. Sometimes women are cruelly separated from their children; others are abandoned with their children in situations of near destitution. Women are left trapped in abusive and limping marriages and in circumstances that involve the deliberate infraction of their legal rights to protection, support and rehabilitation. The University of Lincoln published vital research in 2016 which highlighted the scale of the problem and the devastating consequences for women in India where the practice is also related to dowry-abuse and violence.

Until recently, this problem was little understood in law, policy and practice in the UK.

What has SBS done?

On 4 February 2016, SBS and the University of Lincoln launched the report Disposable Women: Abuse, Violence And Abandonment in Transnational Marriages: Issues For Policy And Practice in the UK and India at the Houses of Parliament.

Since then, alongside an expert working group of academics and family and immigration law practitioners, SBS has been lobbying extensively for change in both family and immigration policy.

Media

We have highlighted the problem through the media including the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire and Inside Out London on reports on abandonment. Some of our users have been brave enough to speak out about their experiences of abandonment in the hope of changing the law and attitudes to this little understood but significant form of gender-based violence.

Family Justice System

Since April 2016, SBS set up a sub-working group worked to change family law and practice in this area and has worked closely with the now-retired President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, on improving outcomes for abandoned women in the Family Justice System. We published a series of articles on transnational marriage abandonment in Family Law journal and were also invited by the President to make a presentation to senior family judges in May 2017. As a result of our campaigning, transnational marriage abandonment was included for the first time in the definition of domestic abuse in the revised Practice Direction 12J: Child Arrangements and Contact Orders: Domestic Abuse and Harm.

We warmly welcome this development and hope that the revised Practice Direction will mean that family courts will now be more responsive to abandoned women who wish to assert their legal rights to property, maintenance, dowry and children upon divorce.

However, we believe that there is still much to be done to ensure that victims of this pernicious form of abuse can access justice and obtain appropriate remedies. Within the family justice system, there is a need for more awareness of transnational abandonment and training within the judiciary, legal profession, and Cafcass. Cases should be heard by judges with an appropriate level of seniority, and with effective liaison taking place between the family court and immigration authorities. In terms of divorce and financial remedy, there is a need for greater scrutiny of divorce cases where the wife cannot respond as she is out of country, to ensure that if she has been abandoned there she can seek a remedy; and for a more streamlined process to enforce the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1972 so that an abandoned wife can enforce maintenance orders that are issued in her country of origin.

Immigration

We have also set up another subgroup of immigration law practitioners which has been working with the Home Office to create awareness of the issue and reduce the opportunities for perpetrators to abuse and abandon women with impunity. We have urged the Home Office to respond to the specific ways in which immigration law and policy exacerbates the victimisation of migrant women who are prevented from returning to the UK to assert their rights in relation to divorce, children and financial and property matters.

It is vital that transnational marriage abandonment is recognised in the cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse (and any definition include in the forthcoming bill), and specifically in immigration policy and guidance. More must be done to ensure that spouses who have been subject to transnational abandonment are able to return to the UK where they were resident before the abandonment to assert their rights under immigration law as victims of domestic violence under the DV Rule and the DDV Concession. For example, currently a woman who is abandoned in her country of origin cannot apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) under the domestic violence rule – when she would be able to if the marriage had broken down due to domestic violence within the UK. These women should be enabled to apply for ILR, and should also not be subjected to ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions on re-entry into the UK.

There is also a clear need for the UK’s immigration system to act in a way that acknowledges and combats transnational abandonment. This includes providing clear guidance to entry clearance officers when considering visa applications from abandoned spouses; acting on Family Court requests for the return of abandoned mothers to the UK and ending the practice of revoking spouses’ visas on the instructions of abusive spouses without first undertaking an investigation into the circumstances of the case which often reveals a pattern of abuse and coercive control.

How you can help

Further Reading

Academic Articles/Reports

Jahangir, S. (2015) Stranded Spouses and Immigration Control, Family Law Week, March 2015

Anitha, S., Roy, A. and Yalamarty, H. (2016) Disposable women: Abuse, violence and abandonment in transnational marriages. Lincoln: University of Lincoln.

Anitha, S., Patel, P., Handa, R. and Jahangir, S. (2016) Emerging issues for international family law Part 1: Transnational marriage abandonment as a form of domestic violence. Family Law Journal, 46 (10). p. 1247

Jahangir, S., Anitha, S., Patel, P., and Handa, R. (2016) Emerging issues for international family law Part 2: Possibilities and challenges to providing effective legal remedies in cases of transnational marriage abandonment. Family Law Journal, 46 (11), p. 1352

Patel, P., Handa, R., Anitha, S., Jahangir S. (2016) Emerging issues for international family law: Part 3: Transnational marriage abandonment and the dowry question. Family Law Journal, 46 (12), p. 1443

Videos

Southall Black Sisters’ Support Group: My Second Name is Dowry

BBC News: The wives abandoned by British Asian men

BBC Inside Out: Outcast Brides

Blogs and Articles

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