IIW (Inspiring Indian Women) curates an online workshop- No more Silence to Domestic Violence… A special report by Maheen Nusrat
Indian Inspiring Women (IIW) hosted an online workshop on the topic of ‘NRI Brides session: No more Silence to Domestic Violence’. The event featured Family Law and Immigration experts, domestic violence registered counsellors, charity organisations, and Councillor. The event was hosted by Jasmine Vithalani; who is a Community Engagement Officer in London, an advocate for the fight against domestic abuse, passionate about empowering women through education. She is also an RJ for BHF Radio and TV show host for women’s program ‘Nari tu Narayani and a freelance writer.
Those in attendance had an opportunity to hear at length from legal experts such as Savitha Bansal; who is a qualified solicitor with 20+ years of diverse experience in two different legal systems: UK and India. She shared her wisdom and stories of women who had suffered Domestic Violence at the hands of their husbands; sharing many stories where women successfully got settlement in the UK. Bansal, also shared some tips for women who may be currently facing such circumstances for women to safeguard themselves; highlighting the importance of documents, what steps to take to protect one’s interest in property and what steps to take before coming as a bride to the UK to ensure protection of jewellery and money.
Audience also had an opportunity to hear from Reema Chugh, who is a solicitor, specializing in property/construction disputes, runs a mediation service and Aum Charity that helps victims of domestic violence and children in Asian countries. Chugh focused on the questions women and their families must ask before marrying, and the responsibility on the families of the women to do their due diligence and not be afraid to ask questions and also be willing to investigate through using social media, or asking local family and friends to check the prospective groom.
Kashmira Kalsi; who is a Registered Counsellor and works at Sangam, a Charity which provides free counselling for victims of Domestic Abuse shared the psychological impact on victims and highlighted that help is available. She busted the myths that simply having a proposal from the UK is not a guarantee that life will be a bed of roses.
Ritu Sharma, writer of ‘Rich Man’s Poor Daughter’ who manages Kaushalya in Birmingham also chimed in that the temptation to move to the UK is enticing and the risk of losing a potential proposal is so high which is why often even well-educated families will not ask questions or investigate.
Garima Jhamb; who is a domestic abuse practitioner, National Women’s Aid trainer on forced marriage and honour-based violence with a passion to help victims of violence but also to advocate for them. Jhamb elaborated on the lack of support often from the family of the victims itself. Jhamb pointed to the reality victims often face where the inlaws and the perpetrator will discredit the victim through character assasination, hurling false accusations of being greedy or simply accuse of mental health problems; all as a way to deter the victim from raising a voice against her own oppression and from seeking help.
The panel also provided an opportunity to hear from other survivors and how they found their voice having gone through such adversity. One of the victims, Veena shared a heart-wrenching story of the various types of abuse she faced from her perpetrator. All showed immense appreciation for Veena’s vulnerability, honesty and courage. Veena also sang in her beautiful voice-which was a delight everyone who attended got to indulge in.
The event also featured the youngest parish council candidate from Chigwell Row, Cllr. Pranav Bhanot; who shared his experience of helping victims of domestic violence in his capacity as a councillor. Bhanot shared that one of the highest crimes in Chigwell Row unfortunately is Domestic Abuse, mainly against women and made worse during the lockdown. He also highlighted how a large segment of the population in Chigwell Row is from the South Asian diaspora of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He shared about a campaign called ANI, which is designed as a codeword. ANI allows victims to go into shops and pharmacies and get immediate access to help simply by uttering ANI to someone working there.
Author Harpal Singh of ‘The First Slap’ minced no words when he called out the culture of patriarchy within the South Asian Community which gives impunity to the perpetrators and refuses to acknowledge the deep impact of domestic violence and its prevalence in our communities. He encouraged a strong stance against such abuse and encouraged the families of women to stand by their daughters while dumping this false concept of izzat because the life, and safety of women is far more important than a mythical concept of izzat.
We also heard from Meena Nahar who is an IDVA and works for Women’s Aid in Leicestershire and volunteers with Asian Women Foundation in Bedford. She shared with us the work that her charity is involved in and also the work of many other charities that are active within the UK. She provided hope that help is available and signposted to the various aid available to victims of abuse, especially those who are on a spousal visa.
The webinar provided a lot of information, and a list of contacts and organisations that can help victims in need. The recording of the forum can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzZt7jdBjRA. For more info check the IIW ( Inspiring Indian Women ) website – inspiringindianwomen.org