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Is Britain Turning A Blind Eye To Domestic Violence?

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Aman Singh, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    Domestic violence is so unmentionable that it seems not to exist in the UK’s Indian community. It isn’t talked about, it isn’t revealed and it certainly isn’t tackled. Many Indian women are reluctant and too fearful to seek help. Reporting from London SHAMLAL PURI investigates the plight of those who suffer in silence.

    By SHAMLAL PURI in London

    GINA Satavir Kaur, a young British Indian from Bunny, in Nottingham, central England, was subjected to such a terrifying four month campaign of bullying and humiliation in the hands of her mother-in-law Dalbir Kaur Bhakar in the suburbs of London that it broke her emotionally.

    Nottingham County Court in the East Midlands was told how Gina’s life fell apart in 2002 after her arranged marriage to 29-year-old Hardeep Singh Bhakar. Gina was an intelligent professional businesswoman but her life changed when after marriage she moved in with her husband’s family in Ilford, Essex, on the eastern fringes of London.

    Dalbir Kaur’s campaign of torment against her daughter-in-law made the young bride an emotional wreck. Gina was forced to do menial house work for hours; was kept a virtual prisoner in the house and forced into domestic duties at the crack of dawn. She was referred to as a ‘dog’ and forced into a routine of cleaning toilets without a brush in an attempt to exhaust and humiliate her.

    Gina claimed in court that she was not allowed to visit the local Gurudwara (temple) and was allowed only four short visits home to her parents shortly after her wedding. Her telephone use was limited and calls were monitored. The mother-in-law also forced Gina to cut her hair to shoulder length, knowing fully well her Sikh faith forbade it. Ironically, Gina’s husband Hardeep did nothing to stop his mother from humiliating the young bride.

    Gina was refused to register with a local doctor and suffered a hand infection, the result of excessive cleaning, went untreated.
    Mrs. Bhaker, 52, was fined UK Pounds 35,000 after the court refused to accept her claim of innocence. The marriage had fallen apart and Hardeep and Gina were divorced. Gina moved back to her parents’ home in Nottingham.

    Gina’s lawyer John Rosley told the press “This case has exposed a problem that is common but not often talked about.” He said Gina was brave to have sought the help of the law. “There are many who could bring such a case but do not.”

    He hoped that the publicity generated by this successful action would bring other women who have suffered similarly to come forward.
    This is, unfortunately, only the tip of the iceberg.

    Domestic violence experts say this is the crux of the problem. Apna Ghar, a domestic violence organization based in East London, found that in a lot of cases mothers-in-law are behind the abuse.

    Many of these elderly women have been abused themselves. So what makes them so keen to see the cycle of violence perpetrated on others?
    For many of these women it is the only power they have. In the Indian community, a lot of women feel their sons are everything. The son should never appear to have such a close relationship with his wife that it threatens the mother’s position of power.

    Consequently, some women are abusive to their daughters-in-law, determined to prove their power of strength in their sons’ lives.
    But the men also have responsibility to protect their wives from abuse. They are failing in their marriage vows if they become mere observers while the wife is subjected to ridicule, disrespect and abuse.
    It takes a lot to change such ingrained attitudes. Community pressure is such that even mothers whose daughters are being victimised are reluctant to step in.

    A lot of Indians, even if they are living in the West, have to be educated about respecting someone’s loving daughter who has come into their home.
    Too many men believe they have the right to physically abuse their wives, much in the same way as they beat their children for every supposed wrong. The abuse is deplorable in Hindu homes, and it has come in full force with the immigrants to the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
    Many British Indians are victims of domestic violence but they choose to keep quiet for fear of being stigmatized in the community.

    The most widely known case of domestic violence in Britain is that of a Punjabi woman Kiranjit Ahluwalia who suffered merciless beatings from her husband Deepak. She married him at the age of 23 and for ten years she suffered domestic abuse of profound severity, including physical violence, food deprivation, and marital rape.

    She sought the help of her extended family but was reprimanded and ordered to stay with her husband because it was a matter of family honour and she was a mother.

    One evening in 1989, Mrs Ahluwalia was allegedly attacked by her husband later accusing him of trying to break her ankles and burn her face with a hot iron, apparently trying to extort money from her extended family. Later that night while her husband lay sleeping, she fetched some petrol from the garage, poured it over the bed and set it alight, and ran into a garden with her three-year-old son.

    Deepak suffered 40 per cent burns and died ten days later in hospital from complications of severe burn injuries. Ahluwalia, who could only speak broken English at the time, was arrested and ultimately charged with murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at Lewes Crown Court on 7 December 1989.

    Her case eventually came to the attention of the Southall Black Sisters, an Indian pressure group in north-west London, and Ahluwalia became a symbol of the repression of Asian women in Western society as the group pressed for a mistrial.

    Ahluwalia had her life sentence remanded in 1992 on grounds of insufficient counsel. She had not been aware that she could plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. In addition, it was brought to light that she was suffering from severe depression when she lashed back at her husband, which her counsel argued had altered her decision making abilities at the time.

    Her case was featured in the Bollywood film, Provoked, in which Aishwarya Rai plays the role of Kiranjit Ahluwalia.

    Yet, it goes without saying that Bollywood films are the cause of an increase in domestic violence not only in India, but also among NRIs. In these films stars treat their wives as chattels and beat them up when they want to. Indian men at grass-root level try to emulate the actions of their stars after watching these movies.

    Take the comedy film Aamdani Aath Anni Kharcha Rupaiya, the stars beat up their wives at their whim when the male characters feel their spouses are over-stepping their limits. Or in one film I saw in which the famed Nana Patekar, a village rogue and grandfather, lashes violently not only at his wife and other women folk, but also men who irk him.
    Domestic violence is no laughing matter.

    In Britain there are several refuges for just Asian or Indian women. Sadly these are well used. Here, sometimes police fail to help Asian women because they think they are treading on sensitive grounds.
    For example, in the case of a Muslim woman they left at the mercy of the violent husband when the husband said according to Islamic law he ‘owned’ his wife. Little did the British Police step back to think that the law of the land applies to all.

    Then there was the case of Navjeet Sidhu, a 27-year-old Sikh mother of two, who jumped in front of the Heathrow-Paddington express train in Southall with her kids. It was claimed that the young mother married an Indian man at the age of 20 had had an unhappy marriage. The couple had briefly split up for one year and Navjeet had gone to live in the US. When she returned the couple had become more distant. Overcome by depression she took her life and that of her two children.

    When thinking of Domestic Violence or Spousal Abuse, it is automatically assumed that the victim is always a woman. What is often over looked are situations where men are the victims – men married to scheming and suspecting psychos who will not leave their poor husband in peace, according to sources in the community.

    Along with the verbal tirades, he also has to deal with physical abuse where the wife would not only inflict physical harm to him but also manipulate the law to blame him. Finally, when it comes to a divorce she will find a lawyer, usually a woman, a psycho like herself, and divorced.
    I recall the case of a neighbouring Indian couple in East London who had invited a guest for dinner to their house. The wife, a Punjabi, flew into rage because her husband had failed to comply with her request to set the table for dinner. The man, who had just arrived home from work, was engrossed in watching TV and kept on postponing the order from his wife. When he went into dining room to set the table, she lashed out at him ferociously with a stool she was holding.

    Police were called. The lady police officer said she could not intervene as this was a domestic problem. The Police could clearly see blood gushing out of the husband’s head. The Police only offered to call an ambulance to treat the husband and said they would record the incident in their log books at the Police Station.

    The other time, a friend took pity on his Indian neighbour as he discovered him sleeping in the back garden in driving London snow because his wife had locked him out of the house for no other reason than that he had arrived home late. She refused to accept his explanation that he was late due to a delay in the public transport system. My friend invited him to his house and asked him to sleep in his spare room. His wife never spoke to my friend again after this intervention and considered him her enemy number one.

    I have come across some young Indian men feeling low and miserable. They are among the breed of ‘imported’ partners married to British Asian women. They are totally at the mercy of their British Asian wives and their families because they do not have a proper job and the right to live in the UK permanently. Little do these British Indians realise that these young Indian men have given up perfectly respectable jobs back home in the sub-continent to be here.

    A typical scenario is that the imported groom once here is totally at the mercy of his psycho wife and her family. He may not be subjected to physical abuse but there is lot of mental harassment and financial deprivation. He may be forced to do long hours at the family-owned business while his British raised wife parties all night long.

    In other cases, a successful and well to do Indian goes back to the motherland to get married. It is an arranged marriage to what appears to be a shy and submissive homely girl. Little does he know that she is a wolf in a sheep’s clothes. She has an agenda and a game plan. The trouble begins once she has got her immigration papers intact. By then probably, she has a couple of children.

    Then follows the divorce where, as expected, the husband loses his life’s savings and the house. This is alongside the alimony and child support that he is liable to pay.

    When it comes to divorce, the women have the upper hand in the eyes of the British law. Divorcing wives sit down with their lawyers to scheme on how to take away everything that he owns. There are many examples of men in such a situation but sadly there are no organisations in the UK to look after the welfare of battered husbands.

    Ironically, the British legal system is so heavily stacked up against men that even Judges in divorce courts turn a blind eye to the plight of husbands. They don’t care what happens to the husband in the case of a divorce. It’s the divorcing wife who should get the lot! Only in very rare cases, judges see beyond their noses the conspiracy hatched by divorcing wives and their criminally-minded overpaid lawyers. It’s a game that a women’s lawyer must win under any circumstances.

    Once the divorce is finalised the now ex-wife’s long time boy friend appears on the scene – and its party time for her.

    While divorce cases are the ultimate solution to the lost lives of spouses most cases of domestic violence or spousal abuse too often go un-reported and the victims suffer in silence.

    A lot of times there are children involved in these unhappy relationships and abused women do not want to risk losing her children to the adoption or system of the UK or foster mothers. She may or may not get custody of her children depending on how a judge may view the case.

    Gina Satavir Kaur turned to the courts not under any specific domestic violence laws but took her mother-in-law to court under the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act. This Act covers a variety of behaviours, including religious or racially motivated harassment. It is generally used to prosecute people who play loud music or carry noisy house

    The British Government should step into this festering problem and make spousal abuse and domestic violence punishable severely under the law. Judges should be merciless in administering justice. Long prison sentences should be handed down alongside deportation of violent Asian spouses and family members involved in domestic violence. This would go some way in helping to eradicate this age-old problem, at least among the immigrant communities.

    Indians are advocates of non-violence. They should be taking a special lead in solving this problem not only in our communities but also in our own homes.

    Meanwhile, plans have been mooted in the UK to set up an organization to boycott bringing in brides and bridegrooms from the Indian sub-continent because of the exploitation of NRIs and fraudulent marriages. There have been instances of marriages of convenience where people from the Indian region have come to the UK only to obtain a visa and rights to settle permanently. They walk away from the marriage citing ‘difficulties’ once their immigration status is confirmed.

    Shamlal Puri
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  3. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Apr 4, 2005
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    I think in this world there is one rule that good person suffer from the hand of bad person irrespective of whether they are Men or women.
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