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Calls to protect South Asian brides

30 June 10 03:53 GMT

By Rahila Bano
BBC Asian Network

There are calls for a change to the law to protect hundreds of South Asian brides who say they have suffered domestic abuse at the hands of their husband and in-laws.

A Pakistani woman in her 20s sits sobbing in the front room of a friend's house in Greater Manchester.

Yasmin arrived in the country last year after marrying a UK resident.

But she said her marriage was a sham as she was used as a servant and ignored by her husband, who was in another relationship and had a child.

"My husband started complaining as soon as I arrived here after getting married in Pakistan," Yasmin, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, speaking in Urdu told BBC Asian Network.

'Ruin lives'

"He just changed towards me and then started hitting me, pulling my hair, pushing me off the bed and kicking me.

"At the start, his mother was okay with me but then she backed her son.

"I was tired of being beaten up by him almost everyday. The final straw came when he returned from working in the shop one day and hit me.

"When I was ill they wouldn't even take me to the doctor. I then left the house."

She added: "I didn't even get to see my mother's face when she died. I don't know why there are people in the world like this who ruin the lives of daughters."

Yasmin is now facing deportation because of the law governing people coming from South Asia to marry UK residents.

At present, they have to serve a two-year probationary visa and can then only get permanent UK residency with the support of their partner.

Home Office rules state that any foreign national whose marriage breaks up within two years because of domestic violence can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

But they must have reported the incident at the time to someone in authority such as a GP or police officer.

However, when the women struggle to speak or read English and can be kept away from mainstream society, this can be difficult.

Another Pakistani victim in her 20s and from West Yorkshire is also facing deportation because she has been unable to prove that she was a victim of domestic violence.

The woman, whose named has been changed to Salma, said: "My husband already had an Indian girlfriend and two children, which I only found out when my sister-in-law told me.

"They used to beat me if I ever complained about anything and one day my mother-in-law grabbed my face and pulled my hair as my sister-in-laws just watched.

"I ran to my bedroom and was terrified. I couldn't speak English properly but I called police because I thought they might try to kill me."

'Unreasonable' law

The cases highlighted were just two of 1,410, which also include those of some men, submitted to the Home Office between 2008 and 2009 and requested permanent stay in the UK because their marriages had broken down due to domestic violence.

However, only 440 of these were given residency while the rest were deported.

The head of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers, Amjad Malik, now wants the government to give foreign brides the same rights as are given to other foreign dependents.

He argued: "If you bring your parents or children from abroad then they get indefinite leave to enter.

"But, if you bring your wife you get a two-year probationary visa, which is in limbo because it depends on whether your spouse supports you or not. It's unreasonable."

Parveen Javaid, a domestic violence case worker at the Manchester Pakistani Welfare Centre, deals with six to eight cases similar to those of Yasmin and Salma a month.

She also believes more needs to be done to support South Asians getting married to UK residents.

"More support needs to be provided by the government," said Ms Javaid.

"Many of the victims are deprived of being able to see someone, ability to eat - it's the emotional abuse that needs to be recognised."

Mr Malik added: "Foreign spouses should get information about where to get help when they apply for a spousal visa.

"They should be told about services provided by the police, the GP and should be monitored by a dedicated department once they arrive here."

The Home Office said: "Any evidence of abuse is considered - but proof of a court conviction or police caution should satisfy caseworkers that domestic violence has occurred without the need for further consideration.

"The government is bringing in changes in the autumn to help foreign spouses integrate into British society. They will need to be able to speak English before they are given a spousal visa."

You can hear more on this story on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.

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