NEW DELHI, Jan 18 (TrustLaw) - More Indian brides who have been deserted by foreign husbands and live overseas with little support will be able to get financial and legal help after the government said on Wednesday it had expanded its criteria for such aid.
Every year, thousands of girls seeking a better life in the West are married to men of Indian origin living in the diaspora in countries like the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia, who advertise in matrimonial in local newspapers.
But women's groups say many of these young Indian women are duped into wedlock by their husbands and in-laws, mostly for dowries which come in the form of money and jewellery, and then abandoned to fend for themselves in an alien culture.
In a statement, the Indian government said it was planning to expand a current scheme to more and more abandoned Indian brides by loosening criteria for such support.
"A recent review of the scheme undertaken by Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the scope and eligibility criteria of the scheme have been expanded," said the statement.
It said aid, which was primarily given through its overseas embassies, would now be given to women whose marriage was either solemnised in India or overseas. Formerly, only a women who had married in India could apply.
Women who had been abandoned and had initiated divorce proceedings in India or overseas within 15 years of the marriage, compared to the previous requirement of five years, could now be eligible for the aid, which includes counselling.
"Assistance will be provided to meet the initial legal and other costs ... the assistance will be limited to $3,000 per case in developed countries and $2,000 per case in developing countries ...," the statement added.
Dowries are given by the bride's family to the groom and his parents, traditionally to ensure the bride will be comfortable in her new home.
The custom, outlawed in India more than five decades ago but still widely practiced, is often exploited, with the groom's family demanding more money in return for not abusing the bride.
Activists say often the women go abroad after the wedding only to find themselves abandoned with no one turn to, no money, no ability to speak the local language and no knowledge of the norms and customs of the alien country.
Other women tell tales of being battered or kept prisoner in the home and treated like domestic workers. Some even find their new husband is already married to someone else.
There are also cases of "holiday brides" – women abandoned in India within days or weeks of marriage, with the husband promising to return once visa arrangements have been made for his wife, but never actually doing so.
(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)
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