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Abandoned Brides/Holiday Wives


The Global Persecution of Women

Human Rights


Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 26

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.


Article 5

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:

(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;


Mike Roberts, with files by Valery Fortney, “Never mind the expense. Weddings in India are a great occasion -- and they cost plenty!” Vancouver Province, 19 October 2005.

India's colossal wedding industry, worth an estimated $1.4 billion a year, is growing by up to 30 per cent annually as families splash out on increasingly lavish affairs in an attempt to impress friends and relations.

Across regions and religions, Indian weddings are simply over the top.

In rural areas, showy wedding palaces dot the roadsides like glittering Las Vegas casinos.

In the cities, wedding halls abound, illuminated with rainbow spotlights and strobing lasers.

Opulent. Extravagant. Surreal. Such words only begin to describe the dizzying melange of sights and sounds that greets guests at matrimonial extravaganzas that can cost as much as $60,000.

NRIs and their families, returning to India in search of a bride, have come to expect these costly festivities, even though many families can barely afford them.

The bridegroom's representatives, in fact, may insist upon such grandeur as part of the marriage contract.

Families striving to impress their future sons-in-law may borrow, or sell precious land, to raise sufficient funds. And when the marriage is abandoned, the families and their daughters are left struggling for survival.

On this night in Ludhiana, biggest city in Punjab, an associate and I slip in behind a groom's wedding party. We join 2,000 jubilant Sikhs in celebrating what turns out to be the marriage of Rajesh Dogra and his bride Anju Sharma at the Embassy Palace.

The bridegroom, resplendent in green, red and gold and mounted on a white horse, is being escorted down the roadside by a procession of merry men in pink turbans, bearing staffs of golden bells and colourful pennants.

Uninvited guests, we are nevertheless made warmly welcome, slapped on the back, told stories of cousins in Toronto and offered ice cold drinks and silver plates of curd-covered Indian sweets.

The venue is impressive, the size of two community hockey rinks laid at right angles. The guests mill about, nibbling on curried vegetables and cheeses, as clans and families line up at buffet tables.

On a throne-like stage, the princely groom awaits his bride, a young woman dripping in gold and semi-precious stones.

Her escorts walk her slowly down the aisle as small children and beautiful young women whirl to the latest Punjabi pop beats.

The bride joins the groom upon the stage and a procession of well-wishers files past, dropping folds of rupee notes into an oversized bronze urn.

The heat and humidity make us dizzy and the curd -- a type of bitter yogurt -- takes its toll on our stomachs.

"It's very sociable, very," says one guest. "It's a good opportunity to get together with friends and relatives. Here, have some dinner. No, no, you must!"

Weddings in India are typically three-day affairs, with friends and relatives travelling hundreds of kilometres to attend.

Increasingly, western traditions are intruding, with Non-resident Indians demanding a slice of Canadiana with the wedding cake.

As is traditional in arranged marriages, the bride's family provides the groom with a dowry gift of cash and jewelry. The family also pays for the wedding, including the groom's transportation. And these days, that means a fleet of limousines.

The limo business is booming in Punjab.

"For the locals, it is one [rental] but for the NRI's it is the entire fleet," says Sukhdeep Grewal, owner of Canadian Limousine in Ludhiana.

In business for five years, Grewal says he gets 15 to 20 NRI bookings each month for his two Lincoln Continentals -- "with twin AC's!" -- and a Mercedes 280 SZ.

He says October to December are his busiest months and he charges $535 to $935 for his cars, depending on mileage.

"We decorate the cars and provide cold drinks and mineral water," says Grewal, 24, showing photographs of vehicles bumper to bumper in ornate floral arrangements.

Kanwalwinder Singh Sidhu -- nicknamed Happy -- says his limos are a hit with women.

"It's the talk of the marriage party. It's a big thing," says the 28-year-old owner of American Limousine in Ludhiana.

"Whoever rents this limo always puts on a lavish party," he adds, stroking his 1999 Lincoln Town Car, pride of his fleet.

Mike Roberts, “Victims of betrayal: Deserted. She dreamed of a new life in Canada -- now she weeps for shame,” Vancouver Province, 16 October 2005.


Across India, an estimated 30,000 young women live to regret marriages that have left them alone, miserable and consumed with shame.

They married Indian men living overseas in affluent countries -- including many from Canada -- known as Non-Resident Indians. But, their expectations of a happy life in a new country were quickly dashed.

Here are the stories of some of India's abandoned brides.

Bent like a broken flower over a red velvet box containing her wedding photographs, Navjit Kaur Sandhu raises a delicate hand to her forehead and sobs silently.

Her father, Ramesh Kumar, weeps inconsolably into the trembling curtain of his fingers. Her mother stares at the floor, as if wishing for a hole to swallow them all up.

The middle-class Punjabi family is assembled in a relative's home in Maradpur, 40 kilometres away from the prying eyes and tutting tongues of neighbours at home in their village of Aujla.

They have come to share with The Province their story of the family's fall from grace.

Thirty-year-old Navjit, a disarmingly beautiful high school teacher with three university degrees, gathers the courage to open the box in her lap.

The photographs inside tell the story of 10 days last spring during which Navjit was married to fellow Sikh Jaswinder Singh Sandhu -- and was quickly deserted.

After the wedding, in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, the groom returned to his home in Surrey, promising he would soon send for his wife.

Navjit has heard no word from him, or his family, since June 21.

Navjit's case aside, tens of thousands of women in India have seen their family honour and wealth sacrificed to bride-shopping Non-Resident Indians -- 'NRI's' -- from affluent countries abroad.

These men exploit the hope of many urban and rural Indian families to escape domestic poverty and cultural oppression.

Experts in India estimate that fraud is involved in as many as half of all NRI marriages, maybe more.

In Canada, the estimates are lower -- between five and 10 per cent. Despite this, community leaders in B.C. insist that many NRI marriages do result in successful, lasting relationships.

Canada, with its historical links to Punjab, is a primary source of the bride-hunters, who also come from England, Germany and the U.S. (Seventy per cent of Canada's 500,000 Indo-Canadians hail from Punjab; B.C. is home to half of them.)

The men -- and in rare cases women -- represent only a small fraction of their community.

But the damage they leave behind is a source of lifelong shame to their victims in India and considerable embarrassment to community members overseas.

The phenomenon of the abandoned brides has been described by a senior judge in India as a "national psychosis."

"(Young women) think (that) outside India, it's all heaven. Therefore by some means or other, they will go. They are forgetting everything else. And the parents also say, 'All right, let's help her go.' It's a dream. Just a dream," says Supreme Court Judge K. Sukumaran.

Experts who have studied the problem say the pressure the young women face from their families is formidable. They are not empowered, independent women with a voice in their own destiny, but mere commodities in their culture's matrimonial market.

Choosing a love mate is not an option, and ultimately they are twice victimized -- first by their families' eagerness to marry them off and then by their runaway husbands' heartless greed.

Tales of betrayal vary only in the details among the estimated 15,000 abandoned brides in Punjab.

In the neighbouring state of Gujurat, an estimated 12,000 young women have been duped. All told, as many as 30,000 women have been abandoned to live life as social outcasts.

One Indian lawyer who has handled "hundreds" of such cases says that many involve men who have married, fleeced and divorced multiple women.

And a leading Punjabi politician who heads a national campaign to combat what he calls an insidious crime says the perpetrators are "brutal and cruel."

Navjit's father pads softly across the polished marble floor and draws the shutters and drapes, shutting out the cacophony of urban India, the all-pervasive poverty his daughter had sought to escape.

Outside in the blinding light and the blasting heat, the horns of transport trucks and auto-rickshaws split the ears.

Beggars drag their crippled legs down busy streets and naked infants fight with pariah dogs for food scraps atop rotting garbage.

Day labourers wallow barefoot in black sludge clearing blocked sewers for pennies a day.

Navjit resumes her story: "I posted a profile on the marriage portal, on the Internet -- that's how we came to meet. I was always skeptical about marrying an NRI but everyone in his village said it was a very nice family and to go ahead to make the match."

There were hints of possible trouble. A family friend in Vancouver offered to meet with Jaswinder, but he declined, saying he was too busy.

Navjit says she knew that Jaswinder, a machinist, had been married and divorced twice before, once in Canada and again in India.

And when he arrived in India for their wedding, he talked mostly about money.

"He would always talk about money, how he needed money, how he was short of cash," Navjit says.

Her hands tremble as she fusses with her pale blue pant suit, recalling their first meeting.

"He told me that I was very thin. I said, 'We can still go back -- we didn't have to marry.' He said, 'No, no, I will marry you.' He would say I was not beautiful, that I was not as fair as my picture on the Internet. He was mad that I didn't have money for taxis."

Navjit says her family gave Jaswinder jewelry, gold ornaments and clothes and spent $11,000 on a lavish wedding to impress his family, few of whom showed up.

But her family refused to pay a dowry -- a tradition outlawed in India, but common among status-conscious Sikhs.

The honeymoon was a disaster, Navjit says.

"Every day I was insulted. His behaviour was very rude and bad. I was tortured mentally by him. He never respected my parents. He never spoke nicely to them."

Navjit's father cringes at the memory.

"I'm not the type of man who cries," says the retired electrical engineer. "I was so upset mentally. I had hallucinations that my daughter had been killed.

"When I came out of it, at least my daughter was alive."

Navjit says that, after Jaswinder had returned to Canada: "There were no phone calls, nothing, no communication. When I did finally manage to reach him, he would say, 'I'm not well, I'm sick. I have blisters in my mouth. I can't speak. my mother is sick. I have to look after her.'"

Once, Jaswinder called to demand a divorce, then hung up. Navjit was distraught. Now, she is at a loss what to do.

Her red and gold wedding bangles jangle over her trembling arms.

"I'm not removing my bangles because I am ashamed that people will see that my husband has left me," she sobs.

"Now I want to go abroad so I don't have to face insults in India."

"He has ruined my life," she says. "He should be punished in such a manner that anyone else thinking of doing this to Indian girls will learn a lesson."

Traced to his family's sprawling home in Surrey, Jaswinder Singh Sandhu is at first reluctant to discuss the marriage.

"I know what you're doing, you get out of here," he tells a reporter.

"What gives you the right to interfere in people's lives? You guys get out of here or I'm going to call the police."

Jaswinder then says his marriage "didn't work out," although he offers no explanation.

Asked about the future, he says: "Of course I'm going to divorce her. Who cares about it?"

Increasingly agitated, Jaswinder says he never mistreated Navjit.

"People make fake charges," he says. "That's bullshit. These are garbage charges."

The phenomenon of betrayed brides runs deep and wide through Punjab, from poor rural villages to upscale city suburbs.

It came to the attention of Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, president of the Lok Bhalai Party (Peoples Welfare Party) in 1999, when the first women, emboldened by their numbers, came forward.

"I decided to champion the cause of these girls," Ramoowalia says from his headquarters in Ludhiana, Punjab's largest city.

He says a random survey in 100 villages last year found three or four abandoned brides in each one.

He believes that in Punjab, where the Sikh religion dominates and 95 per cent of marriages are arranged, many parents are so focussed on wealth and status that they are willing to gamble their daughters' futures on the chance that an NRI match will work out.

"Every father and mother, they want the best match for their daughter . . . [they] attach top priority to boys living abroad," he says.

But these "boys" are often rogues, he says, with few qualifications apart from their Canadian citizenship.

"The girl has all the qualifications, more educated, more young," Ramoowalia says. "The marriage takes place, the boy's side squeezes the girl's side, exploits the weakness with maximum brutality."

It is not uncommon for a Canadian NRI groom to demand as much as $40,000 from a family in Punjab, he adds.

"All expenses are borne by the girl's side. One boy came [to his wedding] in a helicopter. [Families] will be asked to give a car to the dowry. The father of the girl offers to meet every demand, even honeymoon expenses . . . he [the groom] gets the honeymoon, cash, ornaments."

Because dowries are illegal in India, these unofficial transactions can seldom be traced or proven. There is no paper trail and errant husbands find it easy to make plausible denials.

Ramoowalia says some NRI "scoundrels" return to Canada , never send for their brides, but return each year to India to use them as "holiday wives."

The women and their families, too ashamed to admit the marriage is a sham, play along.

Ramoowalia says he has seen desperate parents sell off their lands -- up to $60,000 worth of property -- to appease a greedy son-in-law, and still their daughter ends up alone.

Typically, he says, the abandoned bride will receive an envelope from Canada. She opens it, excitedly, only to discover she is divorced.

"You can't imagine the kind of suffering which they have to endure," he says. "There are no laws to catch those guys."

In nearby Chandigarh, activist lawyer Daljit Kaur says: "What I see is an organized crime."

In one case, she cites a woman who heard nothing from her Canadian husband for 29 years. The wife's letters and petitions to authorities were ignored.

"The courts, the lawyers, they don't have sympathy," Kaur says. "They don't have the political will. They are doing nothing, zero, for these girls."

Rajiv Ahir, Senior Superintendent of police for the Jagraon Police District in Punjab, agrees there are few official remedies.

He sees 15 to 20 abandoned bride cases each month and most, he says, involve NRIs from Canada.

The long, broken road to Rupinder Kaur Chahal's impoverished Punjab village is a ribbon of brown dust filled with potholes, camels, grinding tractors and sputtering mopeds.

The rice fields alongside are lush and green, with fresh shoots springing from brown muddy waters.

On the village outskirts, bedraggled girls hawk tin plates and wizened old Sikhs doze on wicker chairs.

The painted gates to Rupinder's home are shut tight as, inside, the family gathers in a sparse living room to share the story of their downfall.

Rupinder wears gold earrings with a traditional turquoise pant suit. She has the equivalent of a Grade 10 education. Her eyes are downcast, and she defers to her father, Gurdev, a man of patriarchal authority.

Her 18-year-old brother Amarjit, his teeth clenched, stares into space, as if visualizing some faraway foe.

"I wish that my daughter was not born," says her mother, Jagjit.

Rupinder begins to cry.

The family is strongly religious, members of an offshoot of Sikhism called Sirsawala.

Pictures of their gurus adorn the walls of a courtyard next to a pungent cattle stockade.

"We used to meet for hymns and prayers and we met a man named Bhajan Singh," says the father.

"I [told him] 'I have two daughters and they need to get married: You are a member of the same sect, you know us, make us a good match.'"

The matchmaker went to work. In January last year, Rupinder was introduced to Beant Singh Chahal. They were married within a month.

At first, Beant insisted on a simple wedding, Gurdev says, but five days before the ceremony he began demanding money.

"He said he was getting a better offer of nine lahk rupees ($24,000 Cdn). He said: 'If you come with nine lahk rupees we will come with a wedding party, if not our answer is no.'"

Rupinder's family consulted the village council, the 'panchayat,' and were told nothing could be done.

"They [the council] said we would put a pockmark on their face and a social taboo," Gurdev says.

Gurdev went to relatives, neighbours and money lenders to raise the money.

"What could we do?" he asks. "The marriage cards were already sent out."

Beant had already received 2.5 lahk rupees ($6,500) in jewelry and clothes prior to the wedding, according to the family.

Gurdev says it was not until after the wedding he learned Beant was 52 years old.

"He had coloured his beard," he says defensively.

"There was an age problem," Rupinder says. "He was as old as my father, but he treated me well."

Beant returned to his home in Calgary, promising to return in three months to take Rupinder to Canada.

Eight months later, Beant told Rupinder it would be seven years before she could join him.

Rupinder hopes that lawyer Daljit Kaur can pursue charges under the Indian Dowry Prohibition Act against her runaway husband.

Says Gurdev: "We're facing major social problems here. People who we've [borrowed] money from, they come calling saying, 'Where is our money and why is your daughter still here?'"

The family's 11/2 hectare property is up for sale to pay off wedding debts.

"I hope an airplane comes and just bombs our house and we all die. That would relieve us of all our miseries," says Jagjit.

Rupinder's mother still hopes her daughter will join her husband in Calgary. For her, it is better to lose a daughter to uncertainty than to lose face in the community.

"If he is not taking the girl there, then he should return all our money with interest, or even let her live with her in-laws here.

"There are no other options," she says. "This is the only solution to our social stigma here."

Rupinder refuses even to go outside her home. "No, no," she says, when invited for a stroll. "I can't go out."

Within hours of being contacted by a reporter in Calgary, Beant Singh Chahal had filed sponsorship papers for Rupinder.

He insisted he had never had "any bad intentions" toward her.

Beant says he is having financial difficulties and is now living with his adult daughter (from a previous marriage).

He says he is recovering from an arm injury he sustained shortly before leaving India.

"I got a call last night from my wife from India," claims the airport maintenance worker. "I have already sponsored her, I am not holding anything up."

About the age difference between himself and his wife, Beant says a matrimonial "middleman" told him Rupinder "was closer to 35."

He says he did not discover until their wedding day that she was 24.

Beant claims he never received a dowry: "I haven't gotten a single penny from them."

Asked why he told Rupinder it would take seven years to complete the sponsorship process, Beant, who emigrated from India in 2002, says he was "mislead" by a friend.

Mike Roberts, with files by Valery Fortney, “Anger in India over 'holiday wives.' Legislator says 80 per cent of NRI marriages are doomed,” Vancouver Province, 18 October 2005.

In their fight for justice, India's abandoned brides are no longer alone. Politicians, police and lawyers are now championing their cause.

In Punjab, where some 15,000 victims of fraudulent marriages are believed to live, the most outspoken crusader on their behalf is Balwant Singh Ramoowalia.

Ramoowalia's Lok Bhalai Party, a state political party concerned with the social welfare of Punjab's disenfranchised, has taken more than 1,100 abandoned-bride cases to court, or found other paths to justice for the women and their families.

"The phenomenon has become so rampant that it is equivalent to organized crime," Ramoowalia says in an interview at his bustling headquarters in central Punjab.

Resplendent on a day bed in his cramped "bedroom office" in Ludhiana, the colourful legislator rattles off statistics relating to marriages contracted by NRIs -- non-resident Indians, many from Canada.

"Eighty per cent of the marriages to NRI men in Punjab are doomed, with husbands never returning to take their brides," he says in a booming voice.

Ramoowalia, who took up the cause in 2002, speaks of "holiday wives," young women whose Canadian husbands return each year to "live as man and wife" as they party in the Punjab.

"He is coming every year, enjoying life with her for two months," he says. "He never sends for her, never."

Ramoowalia says that such men must live up to their obligations, or suffer the consequences.

"[The women] have fulfilled all the 10, 15, 20 requirements demanded by you, and you are forfeiting your sacred promise with the girl?" he thunders. "Her virginity is lost -- everything is gone. The courts are so slow that a girl of 18 starts in the litigation, she will be old, 35, 40, before anything happens."

Parents of the victims, he says, are more often than not complicit in the crime.

"There are no laws to catch those guys," he says. "But we have one option -- to have forcible civil possession of the property owned by this man in India -- and if the law provides for possible possession of the property of the boys' parents, that can act as a deterrent."

Ramoowalia, a former federal minister, has been known to send police to the homes of Indian families to impress upon them the nature of their Canadian kin's misdeeds.

"We have succeeded in many cases, to get five lahk [$13,500], 10 lahk [$27,000], 20 lahk [$54,000] for the girls," he says.

Ramoowalia complains that no religious leader has spoken out on behalf of the abandoned brides, who are almost exclusively Sikhs, the faith that dominates in Punjab. And he bemoans the lack of secular will.

"No religious leader, no political leader," he says. "It's a very sad state of affairs."

There is no international law governing marriages, and both India and Canada tend to their own matters of civil law.

But Ramoowalia says fraudulent marriages amount to a crime, and bilateral agreements, including extradition, are necessary.

The party president says it saddens him that women become pariahs in their own villages and towns, where a woman who has lost her virginity is considered damaged goods, not worthy of remarriage.

Rajiv Ahir, senior superintendent of police for Jagraon police district in Punjab, says the issue of bride abandonment is rooted in land.

Acre lots in the region -- each worth $15,000 to $20,000 -- are passed down to male heirs or sold to finance daughters' weddings.

A typical family owning three to seven acres dreads the birth of a girl. If the daughter's eventual wedding is an NRI scam, the family faces possible ruin.

Ahir says the abandoned brides are not just a criminal problem.

"Social respect, social status, mental suffering -- these things cannot be measured by the criminal justice system," he says. "These things you cannot deal with within the walls of the criminal system."

He favours informal solutions and would prefer "handsome compensation" for victims rather than lengthy, expensive criminal proceedings.

Ahir say he deals with 15 to 20 abandoned-bride cases each month, the majority involving "scoundrels" from Canada.

He believes India needs to invest more in education on the issue.

"I would recommend that we create a separate law -- rather than scattered provisions within Indian law -- that particularly targets these cases," he says.

"We need the strongest punishments."

Meanwhile, he hopes that a "massive public-awareness" campaign he has launched throughout the villages of Jagraon will prevent there being more victims.

"This is a very personal feeling for me," says Ahir, a 10-year police veteran. "I would say [to young women] they should think twice, thrice, before going abroad. . . . They have a very flowery impression of Canada."

Varinder Kumar, senior superintendent of police for Fateghar Sahib, a town 90 minutes east of Ludhiana, says he knows of fathers marrying their 22-year-old daughters off to 60-year-old men just to get them into Canada.

"I would say that four or five out of every 10 NRI marriages involves fraud," he says.

Kumar was previously assistant inspector-general of a police unit created two years ago in the state capital Chandigarh to deal only with NRI cases.

Last year, he launched NRI Radio, an international Punjabi-language call-in program dealing with NRI issues.

It is broadcast in Toronto on Asian Connections Radio, with plans to resume broadcasts on Radio India in Surrey, as well as in Britain.

Kumar wants to make "linkages" with police in Canada to help find men who have fled India with women's dowries.

He says he will investigate complaints forwarded to him by e-mail at:

Punjab lawyer Daljit Kaur also welcomes e-mails on the issue at:

The activist lawyer is a senior adviser to the women's wing of Ramoowalia's Lok Bhalai Party.

"We have organized seminars, awareness campaigns and protest marches," says the Indian feminist.

"This exploitation of Punjabi girls should be stopped. The problem is here -- the solution is somewhere else. Others must help us -- laws, extraditions."

Kaur is enraged by the lack of political will in India to deal with the issue.

"If you want to do something in India effectively, you need pressure. Only then will people listen."

She agrees with Ramoowalia that the Indian mindset needs resetting when it comes to the role of women in society.

"We are living in the 21st century but I don't think our mental level has changed so much. We are still backward in woman-related matters."

Kaur says three generations of Indians are suffering -- parents, their daughters and the children of runaway husbands.

"Now it is time for international pressure," she says. "It is the duty of Canada to also do something. These NRIs are defaming Canada."

Mike Roberts, “Stem this Social Rot,” Province, 18 October 2005.

Excerpts (edited for clarity) from a petition by Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, president of the Lok Bhalai Party in Punjab and a former federal minister of welfare. The petition has been signed by 60 Indian members of parliament who are campaigning for specific laws in India to stop marital fraud.

Thousands of young married girls in Punjab, while facing harassment, humiliation, molestation and exploitation at the hands of their NRI husbands, are being deserted and forced to live the rest of their lives in desolation and misery.

Such marriages in Punjab are generally arranged deviously by shady matchmakers and greedy middlemen on the promise of a better life for the girls and their parents abroad.

Many Punjabi NRIs, mostly in Canada, U.K. and the U.S.A., already married twice or thrice, succeed in remarrying through allurements and enticements to the innocent young girls.

The NRIs lust after dowry and hefty amounts of cash.

This has lead to widespread domestic discord, violence and has financially wrecked a very large number of households in Punjab.

We view this as cruelty against young married women and take the issue very seriously.

The fraudulent husbands habitually mislead and misguide the victims about their marital status and submit false information to the immigration authorities both overseas and in India.

No effective action is being taken by law-enforcement authorities and in many cases the police take the side of the guilty grooms and their parents.

This sends a wrong signal and encourages others to victimize the society.

We therefore urge that for the sake of preserving the chastity and dignity of Indian women, the Indian government take immediate steps to stem this social rot.

Mike Roberts, “'Why did you ruin me? Why?''Isn't there any law that can protect girls like me?'” Province, 17 October 2005.

In his family's home in Delta, Gurjeet Singh Parmar sits uneasily on a couch while his father, older brother and mother look on disapprovingly.

"I liked the girl. We got married, whatever," he says. "I told her it was going to take time, just wait. I was barely supporting myself at that time."

Gurjeet is talking about his marriage in July 2002 to Kiranpal Kaur Parmar, a 24-year-old schoolteacher from Charak, a village in the Moga district of Punjab.

It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, he says, arranged by a friend's uncle during a holiday in India.

Just six weeks later, Gurjeet returned to Canada, promising to send his new wife sponsorship papers.

But wedded bliss did not last long for his young bride.

Kiranpal was among some 30 women who travelled hundreds of kilometres from their rural villages to meet with The Province this summer in an unprecedented gathering of India's abandoned brides.

In the cramped, stifling office of a regional politician, they told their sorrowful stories, vowing to hold their runaway husbands accountable.

Kiranpal had lodged a complaint with local police, who raided the homes of her husband's relatives in Punjab and made several arrests.

The case against her husband's family has progressed to the Chandigarh High Court.

But, she says, every order is appealed by her husband's family in India, and every appeal means another overnight trip to Chandigarh -- 200 kilometres away.

"My aim," she says bravely, "is to go to Canada and look that man in the eye and say: 'Why did you ruin me? Why?'

"Isn't there any law or system that can protect girls like me and punish guys like him?"

She says Gurjeet told her tales about Canada that made her head spin.

"We used to talk about the future," she says. "[His] relatives here were also very, very nice to me. I was kept like a flower."

At his home in B.C., Gurjeet insists everything was fine at first.

At the time of the marriage, he had been living in Calgary and times were hard, he says. He moved back to his parents' home in Delta 18 months ago.

"Everything just went bad with her," he maintains. "I don't know what got into her, she just flipped. I'm not a millionaire. If she really cared she would have waited."

Kiranpal says she and Gurjeet "kept on good terms" for almost a year after he returned to Canada, though she claims that he and his mother kept asking for money.

"Suddenly, he stopped making phone calls," she says. "When we called him up, he demanded $20,000 more."

When her family refused to pay, "my husband vanished," says Kiranpal, who says her life is ruined.

"Nobody's going to marry a woman left by a man," she weeps. "They will think of me as used and left. Even if I got remarried, I'll have to listen to this my entire life."

Kiranpal's father, Surjeet Singh Gill, borrowed against his daughter's wedding in the expectation she would live in Canada and help support the family. He was forced to sell the last of his family's land this summer to pay off money-lenders. The family is on the brink of ruin.

Surjeet says he spent $17,000 on his daughter's wedding, while his wife, Gurdev Kaur, claims they paid a matchmaker a total of $44,000 for dowry.

Confronted with his wife's accusations, Gurjeet told The Province: "[The wedding] wasn't that fancy. I told them I'd pay them back. I told them I'd make payments or I'll bring her over."

Gurjeet insists he never received any dowry from the matchmaker, or jewelry from his wife's family.

He said he is still willing to sponsor his wife and will "sign any papers" her family produces.

"I can apply now [for sponsorship] or I can start payments," he says. "Obviously, I can't pay everything at once. If she's willing to work it out then I have no problem . . . [but] she won't give me straight answer."

Gurjeet figures he owes his wife's family $12,000 -- $7,200 he borrowed to clear debts in Calgary, and his share of the Indian wedding expenses.

When Kiranpal was told of her husband's promises, she expressed a willingness to forgive him.

She told The Province: "It would redeem my family's face in society and help my parents financially and emotionally."

Mike Roberts, “Sisters tell of failed marriages. Hand-picked grooms sponsored to come to live in Canada,” Province, 17 October 2005.

Among the 30 or so abandoned brides and their families, who travelled from their homes this summer to tell their stories to The Province, were two sisters with a very different tale to relate.

There we were, halfway around the world, in an over-heated warren of humid, airless offices occupied by a state politician who has become the champion of their cause.

Word we were coming to document their sorrow had quickly spread. A queue of forlorn brides -- clinging to battered folders of wedding photos and marriage documents -- formed several hours early.

We were inundated with a wave of misery as each bride told of her betrayal. The grief was unfettered and overwhelming -- women wailed, fathers groaned; mothers, aunties and sisters wept.

And there, among the crowd of women abandoned to bleak and lonely futures in India, were two sisters from Calgary.

Parmjit Kaur Dhamrait, 28, and her sister Ranbir, 32, were already Canadian citizens when they were caught up in India's matrimonial bazaar.

They had jobs and friends in Calgary, enjoyed nights out with girlfriends and had developed western tastes in fashion and music.

They were sponsored in 1998 by an elder sister already living in Calgary with her NRI husband.

They lived in a spacious home with an extended family, including their parents and a younger brother. The sisters were working long, hard hours, but they had made it -- the First World Dream was in hand.

"It's very good," says Parmjit of her life in Canada. "Life is very busy." They were happy. Until they went back to India.

At their parents' wish, the sisters returned to the backwater village of Rurke-Khas in Punjab to marry local men they did not know who had been hand-picked by their father, Darshan Singh Dhamrait.

Parmjit married Gurjit Singh Cherra and Ranbir married Shir Harpal Singh Saini. The weddings took place a day apart in April 2001 at the lavish Doaba Milan Palace in Punjab.

Darshan says he spent $46,000 on his daughters' weddings, and gave each of their husbands $5,400.

"Despite [my daughters] being Canadian citizens I still paid the dowry and I'm not happy about it, but that's the culture," he told The Province this summer.

A month after their weddings, the sisters returned to Calgary. They each spent $1,500 to sponsor their husbands, who arrived a year later.

Both marriages quickly deteriorated. According to the sisters, their husbands became fast "chums," who were more interested in Calgary's nightlife scene than their own wives.

As time went by, both men became abusive, according to their young wives. Indeed, Parmjit's husband was convicted of assault.

The sisters have since returned to India to file separate reports to police detailing their abandonment, with the aim of bringing their cases to court in India.

The picture is one of a complete cultural disconnect between two Canadian wives and their imported, Indian husbands.

Bundles of documents outline mutual allegations of abuse, alarming medical and hospital records, victim-impact statements, petitions for divorce and deportation, salvo and counter-salvo of accusations and denials.

It is an ugly mess with no resolution in sight. Ultimately, both Parmjit and Ranbir feel their estranged husbands used them as tickets to Canada and had no intention of developing lasting relationships.

They say they feel abused and abandoned, and insist they have both made huge efforts to salvage their marriages, without success.

"The community tries to help by bringing the boy and girl together or bringing the families together to work out a solution instead of going to divorce," laments their father, Darshan. "But it has not been of much help."

The girls are seeking financial support and compensation.

Says Darshan, who accompanied his daughters back to India to help in their battle: "Everyone thought it was better to marry Indian boys in India. There was some family pressure. But, next time it is up to the girls."

Adds his daughter Ranbir: "Indian boys I hate. I have lost trust."

Mike Roberts, “A trail of deceit from B.C. to Punjab. CON MAN: Former security guard 'posed as police chief to lure bride,'” Province, 16 October 2005.

LUDHIANA, India -- A former B.C. security guard is behind bars here after allegedly posing as a high-ranking Canadian police officer in a scheme to lure an Indian bride.

Inderjit Singh Dhanot allegedly cruised this Punjab city of 1.5 million in a chauffeured car looking for women.

Police allege his ruse impressed one family so much they gave him a $12,000 dowry and their daughter's hand in marriage.

They say his car had stars on the grille, red flashing lights on the roof and "police" painted on the doors.

Using fake ID and a bogus uniform, Dhanot is accused of passing himself off as "commissioner of the Calgary police" for a month before his arrest.

He has been held in prison since June 9 to await trial on charges of impersonation and cheating.

His exploits have attracted media attention across India, where his alleged crimes have been used to highlight a growing problem of marital fraud involving Non-Resident Indians.

So convincing was Dhanot's cover that the 28-year-old was given an honour guard at the Ludhiana Police Academy, police escorts around the city and VIP treatment by civic officials, according to his arresting officer, Supt. Rajesh Kumar Jaiswal of the Ludhiana police.

Acting on a tip, Ludhiana police took Dhanot in for questioning.

"He started giving [abuse] to my cops," said Jaiswal. "[He said,] 'You don't know who I am . . . I'm the commissioner of police . . . I'll teach you a lesson!'"

Jaiswal's inquiries soon established that Dhanot, although he had been living in Calgary, had no connection with Calgary police. Further inquiries uncovered a history of impersonating police officers.

Within days of Dhanot's April 21 arrest, Ludhiana police held a press conference to warn women that some NRIs were returning to India to dupe innocent victims.

Following a recent appearance in court, Dhanot protested his innocence to The Province.

"They're trying to frame me," he said on the courthouse steps. "The charges are b---shit. They are now saying I was carrying weapons."

Dhanot left Ludhiana for Canada in 1992, settling in Victoria with extended family.

He worked as a security guard until 1999, when he was charged with impersonating a Victoria police officer.

He moved to Calgary, where in 2000 he was charged with impersonating a police officer. That charge was dropped, but in 2001 Dhanot pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of possession of two stolen credit cards and was fined $250.

Two years ago, he married a Ludhiana woman and took her to Calgary. They were divorced a month later.

Soon after, he resumed his regular trips to the Indian state of Punjab in his guise as commissioner.

Dhanot told The Province that the Indian wife he married in March loves him and that he belongs to a "nice" family.

Jaiswal said that neither the new wife, nor her family, has lodged any complaints against Dhanot.

"I will say one thing," said Jaiswal. "He was very cooperative in dealing with interrogation. He told everything. He confessed before us: 'It was always my dream to become a police officer, so I started doing everything, impersonating.'"

The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said Dhanot has not asked for help. Dhanot, a Canadian citizen, faces three years in jail if convicted.

Mike Roberts, with files by Valery Fortney, “'They should fear God and the law.' There's lots of talk, but so far little action,” Vancouver Province, 20 October 2005.

From New Delhi to the Golden Temple in the holy city of Amritsar, alarm bells are sounding in India over the plight of the nation's abandoned brides.

Religious leaders, politicians and academics are scrambling for answers to a phenomenon that has led thousands of women and their families to the brink of social and financial ruin.

At least five government studies have been commissioned to look for possible solutions.

At the Indian Society of International Law in New Delhi, academics were tasked in 2003 with studying the issue for India's Ministry of External Affairs.

Their 71-page report on the problem of Non-Resident Indians bride-hunting in India recommended:

• Legislation to stop foreign courts from granting divorces between NRIs and Indian women married in India.
• Automatic recognition of Indian court orders by foreign courts.
• Background checks for incoming NRI bride-hunters.
• Enforced registration of all marriages between NRIs and Indian nationals.
• A global instrument for the recovery of spousal support and child maintenance.
• A separate government agency to deal with NRI matters.
• A broader set of bilateral extradition protocols between Canada and India, including extradition for bigamy.

"We want to limit the power of NRIs," says Prof. Lakshmi Jambholkar. "They cannot have two loyalties and they cannot take advantage of the women of India.

"The family courts in Canada, in the U.S. and elsewhere must be made aware of these problems."

Alas, says the law society's Prof. V.C. Govindraj, the Indian government has yet to act on the report.

"It is sitting on the shelf collecting dust. More than a year and a half now and nothing has happened," he told The Province.

Supreme Court Judge K. Sukumaran says: "We need legislation. Our legislators are in deep slumber. The years roll on; these women languish here."

High Commissioner Lucie Edwards is the senior Canadian diplomat in India. She tells The Province there is little the embassy can do.

Abandoned brides don't appear on the commission's radar unless they are sponsored by their husbands as immigrants, she says.

The commission does process some 5,500 spousal sponsorships for Indian nationals each year, most for newlyweds.

"I think a lot of the fundamental issues that need to be dealt with -- and I'm not speaking as the ambassador, I'm speaking of someone troubled by the issue -- have to do with the role of women in Indian society," says Edwards.

She says the increase in women's education in India in the past 20 years has been remarkable, but women still lack their own sources of income and independence.

"India has passed inheritance laws where women can receive things from their family only after they marry, and then it is vested with the man, and that is troubling," she says.

Edwards says parents need to clear the dreamy swirl of dollar signs from their eyes and act diligently on behalf of their naive young daughters, who too often agree to milk-and-honey NRI marriages for the sake of their impoverished families.

"In successful arranged marriages to NRIs, parents care enough to do due diligence," she says. "They rely on local priests, members of the families; they have discussions with the boy."

These parents ensure that the groom comes from the kind of family that will care for and support their daughters, that will allow her to continue working or return to India to visit family.

Charanjit Singh Bakshi, a lawyer with the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, recently concluded a study of abandoned brides in five Indian states for the Indian federal government.

He says it's time for a bilateral agreement between Canada and India to deal with runaway husbands, an agreement that might see expanded extradition protocols or twinned legislation.

"I have seen cases where an NRI comes for dowry and can have married three or four women on three or four passports and the family is absolutely incapacitated to do anything," he says.

His report is under review by India's chief secretary of state.

"Personally, I foresee legislation in this regard, yes I do," says Bakshi.

At the Golden Temple -- the so-called Vatican of the Sikh religion, located in the northwestern city of Amritsar -- religious leaders are just now waking up to the cries of India's abandoned brides.

Members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee -- the political and religious body that tends the affairs of world Sikhism -- say "special regulations" are urgently needed.

"If anyone from abroad is coming here to marry an Indian girl or boy, they should have to register their intents before the marriage takes place," insists the SGPC's Jaswinder Singh.

"And a team of investigators -- with all the powers -- should investigate and check all their credentials."

He says police in India have not done enough to remedy the brides' plight and he has written to the chief secretary of Punjab demanding to know why.

"The problem is very big and needs to be checked," he says.

The SGPC itself, however, admits it has done little to help these Sikh women, of whom more than half are from Punjab.

"As of today, the SGPC hasn't done anything," says Singh. "But we will definitely pursue this issue . . . we will present it to the president of the SGPC and write to all the gurdwaras [Sikh temples] in the world and the message will be: 'Don't cheat.'"

Rajinder Singh Mehta, a senior SGPC member and former president of the All India Youth Association, says he finds the practice of bride abandonment -- which is "against the tenets of Sikhism" -- personally abhorrent.

Asked whether the SGPC has issued a holy edict to that effect, he admits it has not.

"An edict is for those persons who believe in God," he explains. "These people who are cheating, this means they do not believe in God. Do you feel they have any fear of excommunication when they are cheating these girls so?"

But if the practice does not stop, warns Singh, the Sikh community may be forced to issue a "blanket ban" on NRI marriages.

"We were already discussing this matter," he says of the unprecedented move. "There will be a resolution tabled at the next general meeting in November."

Adds Mehta: "I would say to these fellows, the ethics of humanity is much more important than having physical pleasure at the expense of an innocent girl. They should have fear of God and fear of the law."

Mike Roberts, “'A few bad apples,'” Vancouver Province, 20 October 2005.

Balwant Singh Gill is president of Surrey's Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, the religious and political hub of the Lower Mainland's 100,000-member Sikh community.

Gill says arranged marriages -- a long and successful tradition within the 535-year-old faith, the world's fifth largest religion -- are not the issue. He says the problem is the "few bad apples" that abuse the custom for their own, greedy ends.

"The Punjab government has to do something because this is a very serious problem; they have to change the laws somehow," insists Gill.

The temple president says only "greedy people" and "bad apples" would cheat women abroad, and he questions the continued practice of traveling to India for brides.

"The population here is large; there is no shortage of boys and girls to marry," Gill says.

He says the problem is with young men who for one reason or another are unacceptable to girls within their community. "No girls want to marry them here, so they go and get a nice, educated girl from India," he says. "Nice kids aren't going there to get married." Gill says there should be restrictions on NRI bride-hunters. "[Indian authorities] should take some bond from them, a security until the girl has been sponsored."

Mike Roberts, with files by Valerie Fortiney, “She's smiling now, but . . . Move to B.C. may end up disappointing,” Vancouver Province, 19 October 2005.

Karamjit Kaur Barring, a beautician from the backwater village of Manuke in Punjab, is trembling with excitement. The young woman has just arrived at the Jagraon police station to learn that her Canadian husband, a Surrey trucker who abandoned her shortly after their wedding three years ago, has agreed to sponsor her to Canada.

It is a dream come true for Karamjit, the answer to her prayers.

"I just want to see my husband -- the rest can wait," she says of her plans when she gets to Canada.

But, if Karamjit believes her husband will be waiting for her at Vancouver airport with open arms, she may be in for a surprise.

Contacted at his home in Surrey, Lakhbir Singh Barring says he has no interest in his estranged wife, and has agreed to the sponsorship only to spare his parents trouble in India.

Lakhbir says police in India have been "harassing and insulting" his family, sticking their noses in where they have no right or reason.

"I will file sponsorship papers because my parents gave promise to police and I'm under pressure from politicians," says Lakhbir, who says his marriage broke down because, in his view, his wife was interested only in a free ride to Canada.

"I don't care where she's going," he says of his wife. "After I file papers my job is done. After that it is not my problem."

Karamjit's story is a tragic twist in the saga of India's abandoned brides.

It is a predicament that Goldy Bhatia knows all too well -- Indian women sponsored to Canada only to be abandoned here in B.C.

"I'd say 40 per cent of my cases right now are women who've been abandoned here," says the Vancouver settlement counsellor, who opens a new file every month.

"They get married. They come here. They get dumped. As simple as that."

While brides abandoned in India face a life of shame and ruin, Bhatia says young women abandoned in B.C. can find themselves in situations just as harrowing.

Typically, she says, B.C.'s abandoned brides are cast off within six months to a year of arrival, usually by men who have had either a change of heart, or who have brought their wives to Canada solely as caregivers to their parents.

"Culturally, when you are married, you are supposed to stay with your in-laws," Bhatia says.

"The bride comes, takes care of the family, cooks and cleans."

The woman is often treated as indentured labour, says Bhatia, while her husband pursues other female interests with no regard for his wife or their children.

"These women have no interaction with the outside world," Bhatia says. "They live in a vacuum, their lives are controlled."

Too often, she says, the women are physically and mentally abused by both their husbands and their in-laws.

"I've dealt with women who don't know they could call 911," she says.

The women suffer in silence, explains Bhatia, have no money, limited English skills and no idea how to engage social services.

"The community has the money, but there's no shelter for women like this," laments Bhatia.

"Most of them have young children. They get into depression."

Bhatia's work is to link the women to shelters and legal aid -- and she offers emotional support.

She says she has dealt with abandoned brides who have locked themselves in rooms for fear of their in-laws' wrath, not eating for days at a time.

She has also seen women living in "panic and fear" who believe their lives and the lives of their children are in danger.

"I even help them to get visitor visas for other family members so mom and dad can come and support them emotionally," she says.

Sadly, explains Bhatia, these women won't return to India for fear of bringing shame upon their families.

The irony in the case of Karamjit Kaur Barring is that officials back in India believe she is a "success story."

Rajiv Ahir, Senior Superintendent of Police for Jagraon police district in Punjab, says the sponsorship promised by her husband is the result of a series of "counselling sessions" with Lakhbir Singh Barring's family.

The errant husband's parents, according to Ahir, were read the riot act -- threatened with arrest and seizure of their property if they did not make good on their son's commitment to Karamjit.

"It's just a tactic to bring them back to their senses," says Ahir.

Karamjit and Lakhbir were married in Punjab on Feb. 4, 2002, in a grand celebration with 1,000 guests. Karamjit's father claims he sold one third of his land to raise a dowry and pay $26,000 for the wedding.

"There was free liquor, plenty of food, even an orchestra," says Karamjit.

Lakhbir spent six weeks with his new wife before returning to Canada, where, Karamjit alleges, he demanded a further $4,500 "for paperwork" to bring her to Canada.

"He's filed the papers, and she's very hopeful she'll be in Canada in a few months," says Ahir.

Unaware of her husband's dismissive remarks back in B.C., Karamjit is ecstatic at the prospect of being sponsored.

"A childhood friend told me [Canada] was a good place," she told The Province.

"I see people coming back from Canada wearing good dresses and having a good lifestyle."

Lakhbir, meanwhile, is convinced his wife is "just playing" him for a ticket to Canada.

He says the police and politicians in India have heard only one side of the story. He says he never demanded more money upon arrival in Canada -- just financial help with the spousal sponsorship fees, which amount to approximately $1,500.

He says his wife and her family are upset because they spent so much on the wedding. He says he never asked for a dowry.

"I'm not going to beg money, no, no, never," he says. "I hate those guys."

Lakhbir says he is a hard worker who drives a truck, does maintenance work and has his own power- washing business.

He says the past three years have been "troubled" and "stressed" and he just wants to close this chapter in his life.

"I will not live with Karamjit anymore," he says, adding he does not know or care when his wife is arriving in Canada.

Mike Roberts, “Appeal to 'moral instincts,' community leaders say. Education seen as key to stopping bride-hunters,” Vancouver Province, 20 October 2005.

It is no secret within the Lower Mainland's Indo-Canadian community that too many of its young men travel to India to marry and fleece women they later abandon.

Local community leaders met recently with Province journalists to discuss the culturally sensitive issue and to explore possible solutions.

Of India's 30,000 abandoned brides, 15,000 live in the northern state of Punjab. Indian officials estimate that as many as 10,000 of those Punjabi brides have been abandoned by their Canadian husbands, many of whom live in B.C.

The community representatives generally agreed that the problem needs urgent attention from both the Indian and Canadian governments.

They expressed unanimous concern that the phenomenon should not stigmatize the entire Indo-Canadian community.

"The Indo-Canadian community is an integral part of Canadian society," said Balwant Sanghera, a representative of the Sikh Societies of the Lower Mainland.

"Like any other community, it has its own problems. But definitely we have a problem and we are trying to tackle it as best we can."

Sanghera, a retired school psychologist, said it is critical that parties to such marriages are educated about the impact of their decisions.

On the Indian side, he said, families must pursue background checks on potential grooms.

And in Canada, appeals must be made to the "moral instincts" of men seeking instant brides.

Sanghera said recent immigrants, who may lack the sophistication to integrate into mainstream Indo-Canadian culture, are the most likely to return to India seeking homeland brides.

Media exposure is a necessary and constructive undertaking to increase awareness of the issue, he said.

He also suggested local temple leaders push the message that bride abandonment is a shameful practice.

Surrey MLA Dave Hayer, parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism and immigration, agreed that the issue needs frank and open debate.

Hayer commended The Province for pursuing the issue and pledged his political support.

But ultimately, he said, it is up to the federal government to find solutions.

"I think it's disgusting, personally, someone going to India and marrying someone for the money," he said.

Immigration lawyer Amandeep Singh argued that federal legislative changes would not supersede international law.

"The only way this is going to stop is through education," he said.

The community representatives all emphasized that the issue of abandoned brides should not be confused with the practice of arranged marriages, more than 90 per cent of which are successful, they said.

They also stressed that "only a small minority" of men in the community were involved in fraudulent marriages.

"Just like our prison system, it's a small number of criminals committing a lot of crime," Hayer said.

Settlement counsellor Goldy Bhatia said Indian families must be further educated -- through the media and other social agencies -- about the dangers of NRI marriages.

They must be encouraged to do "proper background checks" and should refuse to submit to "cultural pressure" to provide dowries.

Bhatia said the Canadian government cannot say the issue of abandoned brides is not its problem.

"It is their problem," she said. "These guys come and hide here; it is a safe haven for them."

Mike Roberts, “Preference for male children skews India's demographics,” Vancouver Province, 17 October 2005.

"Pay now, save later," read the signs above the doors of Punjab's mushrooming underground sex-detection clinics.

"The message is simple: Why have a burdensome female child when you don't have to?

"The statistics paint a grim picture: For every 1,000 boys in Punjab in the six-and-under age group, there are only 793 girls. Where are all the girls? The answer: Lost to sex-selective abortions and female infanticide.

"Under the Indian Prohibition of Sex Selection Act of 1994, sex-detection tests are illegal, but still common in India where many families abort female fetuses in order to avoid huge wedding and dowry costs. The abandoned brides issue is further compounding this human tragedy.

"The World Health Organization norm is 950 girls per 1,000 boys. Punjab doesn't even come close.

"One village in the district of Bathinda has been dubbed Kudi Maaran Da Pind, or girl-killers' village. The ratio there is 779 girls for every 1,000 boys. The state health department seizes ultrasound machines, even arrests doctors, but the practice continues.

"A 10-year study of babies born in New Delhi, in the heart of Punjab, found the sex ratio further skewed in families with girls. The number of female births was 542 per 1,000 boys if the first child was a girl, the study found. If the first two children were girls, there were just 219 girls born for every 1,000 boys.

Prabhjot Singh, “Check exploitation of Punjabi girls, 60 MPs tell Amarinder Singh,” Tribune News Service, Chandigarh, 27 August 2002.

Upset over the growing incidence of exploitation of girls by “overseas Punjabis” on the pretext of marrying them and subsequently dumping them back home has provoked the President of the Lok Bhalai Party and Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, to organise a movement to check this serious “social menace”. …

A delegation led by Mr Ramoowalia comprising Mr Bhola Singh Virk, Mr Avtar Singh Mulanpuri, Mr Ajay Kumar Bhadaur, Ms Daljit Kaur and Ms Paramjit Kaur Nahar, met the Chief Minister and presented him a copy of the memorandum signed by 60 MPs. … In fact, Mr Ramoowalia raised this issue at a state-level function held at Longowal village on August 20 and expressed his deep concern over the manner in which some of the “manipulative Punjabi NRIs, already married, come back home , get married, gobble up dowry, exploit their brides, put them on tenterhooks and never take them abroad”. “As of now there are at least 10,000 such cases where the victims are languishing in various parts of the state without ever hearing again from their “so-called husbands” again. The girls continue to live their lives in desolation and misery. Such marriages are organised through shady marriage bureaux, misleading matrimonial advertisements or greedy middlemen by promising greener pastures abroad. “The main exploiters come from the UK, the USA, Canada and a few other Western countries,” said Mr Ramoowalia holding that some of the victims are bringing up children on their own from fraudulent wedlocks. This unethical trend usually leads to widespread domestic discord, even violence, besides wreaking financial havoc with the victims’ families. “We view this cruelty with young married girls very seriously. The other area of concern is that the fraudulent husbands habitually mislead and misguide the girls and their parents about their marital status and give false information to the immigration authorities of the country of their migration which creates problems even in case of genuine immigrants. “Unfortunately, no action is being initiated against such fraudulent practice by law enforcing agencies on the complaints of aggrieved girls. Instead, the guilty grooms and their parents are supported. In most of the cases, the complainants are put off saying that the case was out of the jurisdiction of police here. “We want that the Punjab Police in close coordination with Delhi immigration authorities should set up a permanent cell at Delhi to stop the guilty NRI grooms fleeing from India. Special fast track courts should also be set up in Punjab to try cases involving NRI grooms besides providing relief to the aggrieved girls. Every NRI groom before getting married must be asked to file a sworn affidavit about his marital status. All the illegal and unauthorised marriage bureaus in the state should be banned. Action should be taken against those policemen who do not initiate timely action against erring NRI grooms,” said Mr Ramoowalia in the memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister.


The Global Persecution of Women