Domestic Violence, or in other words, violence within the limits of one’s household is one of the biggest crimes against women in society today. In India, in recent years, laws have been strengthened to ensure that a victim of domestic violence can approach the police for help. Structures within the system have been created so that issues of such violence can be dealt with effectively. The law, along with the network of support surrounding the woman has helped the domestic violence situation within the country to some extent.
But what happens to Indian women living abroad. A foreign country, with different structures of authority, lack of support groups and financial dependence on one’s spouse makes the victims of domestic violence much more vulnerable. What must Indian women do in such situation?
Stated below are some helplines and sites and also some pointers on how to deal with domestic violence when you are overseas:
1. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in India launched a booklet on overseas marriages; of which chapter 10 speaks about the various situations in which a woman can seek help. It highlights 5 different kinds of abuse- physical, mental, emotional, monetary and sexual also important to note is that Indian personal law extends to Indian citizens living abroad.
2.For Indian women in the UK, there exists a direct helpline called the National Domestic Violence Helpline, which can be contacted by dialing 0808 2000 247. You can also look up sites like www.womensaid.org.uk or www.refuge.org.uk. Many of these helplines offer free and confidential legal advice to immigrant women living in the UK. You can also contact an immigration officer on www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk or by dialing 0845 345 4345. For legal information do look up the Immigration rules, paragraph 289.
3. For immigrant Indians in the US, there are many ways to take recourse from domestic violence. The VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) of 1994 has provisions which can aid victims of domestic violence living in the US. A National Domestic Violence hotline number has also been set up to help women facing violence. This number is available on their website ndvh.org
4. Know that you are not alone- India is not the only country where women face violence within the household. There are many out there, even in a different country that may understand how you feel. Even though you may feel isolated, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask people around you.
When we think of woman living in a country alien to her, with no extended family to support or a place where she can go to with her worries, where she may face difficulties of language and awareness of the structural support she can avail of, it is important to be empathetic and be ready to help. Extend your friendship and support to your neighbors who are from a different country, and be sensitive towards their problems.