Thinking of abandoning your wife in Pakistan or India? Think again


3:20 pm - July 23rd 2014

by Sunny Hundal    


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A court judgement out this week sheds light on a very under-reported and rarely-discussed problem within South Asian communities in the UK.

In 2007 I reported for BBC Asian Network on women who come to the UK as brides from South Asia, and the potential problems they face. Since many don’t speak English (and are sometimes discouraged from learning it!) – they are more vulnerable to being abused, exploited, beaten or abandoned. One way to help, I argued, was to make it compulsory for them to learn English, so they could more easier seek help when needed and play an active role in British society.

Here are the facts of the case, as laid out in the court judgement. What’s extraordinary about this case is that a British law-firm (Dawson Cornwell) fought on behalf of this woman and won a judgement against the man. I hope it sets a precedent and serves as a warning to other men thinking of abandoning their wives.

* * * * * *

A very young wife was lawfully brought to the United Kingdom, where she was dependent upon her husband and his family, and where she gave birth to a child who has major disabilities. Her husband made little effort to secure for her the immigration status to which she was entitled and when the marriage got into difficulties, she was then sent out of the country with no right to re-enter. The result is that she and her child have been separated for the past three years, a situation that is a wholesale breach of their right to respect for their family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The child, S, was born in 2005 and is nearly 9 years old. He has very severe learning and communication disabilities. His parents are both of Pakistani origin. The father was born in England while the mother came here in June 2002 after an arranged marriage that was celebrated in Pakistan in 2000 when she was around 15 years old.

In December 2012, the father pronounced a talaq. In August 2013, the mother remarried in Pakistan. She says that this marriage was a marriage of convenience. Her father was planning to arrange for her remarriage to a person of his choice and she went through a ceremony of marriage with someone else to prevent this. Her evidence is that she has never lived with this “husband” and has no intention of doing so in future or of bringing him to the United Kingdom.

The mother described several occasions on which the father and his mother would slap and kick her and pull her hair. These did not cause major injury and she did not seek medical treatment or, in general, complain to the authorities. However, on 7 February 2011, she did make a police report and went overnight to a refuge. She explains this as being because the father struck S on that occasion. The father denies any violence whatever.

The judge also writes:

The father’s failure to secure the mother’s immigration status was a gross dereliction of his responsibility towards her and towards S. In his evidence, he claims that he was unaware of her precarious position, having left matters of that kind to his own father. He says that when she left the country in July 2011 he did not know what the position was. I found the father’s evidence incredible and I reject it. He knew perfectly well that if the mother left, she could not return. The reason why the father and his family were so careless of the mother’s position was because it suited them.

Having considered all the evidence on this issue, the judge found that the mother was tricked into going to Pakistan. He also made it easier for her to travel back to the UK and see her son, and forced the father to give her some visitation rights.

Well done on the judge on handling this so well.

It may be that this case also sets a precedent for other ‘stranded’ spouses. As the judge said right at the beginning:

Where one party to a failing marriage has secure immigration status and the other does not, the opportunity arises for the former to exploit the latter’s weakness by taking advantage of immigration controls. This case is a bad, but by no means unique, example of what has come to be known as the stranded spouse.

Indeed.


If you are being affected by this (or other issues like a forced marriage) and need some support, get in touch with Sharan Project

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,South Asia

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Reader comments


sadly there are many more cases like this. i have a further 20 plus pending and have dealt with at least 100 in the past few years. the countries include south East Asia but also West Afria Kosovo Cambodia Russia and even the USA .

2. Mohammad Yasin Khan advocate

I appreciate the effort to high light the abandoned spouses matter. I am serving as lawyer in Child Abduction, Abandoned Spouses, Forced Marriages and Human Rights matters and based in Mirpur Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. I have many cases of women who are abandoned alone or with their children in this area. I refered lot of cases to UK lawyers and Home Office and have some cases pending. Abandoned Spouses, who are either wife’s of British National or mothers of British National their problems should be resolved.


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