Updated: 6:16am – A woman trapped in a sham marriage based on her visa prospects was strangled, beaten and forced into an abortion, a refugee panel was told.

The Sikh woman from India was an ‘IELTS bride’, named after the English language test which can propel successful students and their partners to overseas work opportunities.

But her husband – who came from a wealthy and politically connected family – became abusive and controlling after they married in 2011, the immigration and protection tribunal heard.

In its decision, released this month, the tribunal ruled there was little doubt she would be seriously hurt or killed if she returned to the Punjab.

When the marriage was being arranged, her husband told her family the marriage ceremony would take place within a month of her sitting the English test and applying for a visa. After a visa was approved, a wedding reception would be held.

She passed her English test, but was rejected for student visas in Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States.

He became violent and told her she could not go to her sister’s wedding or visit her sick father in hospital.

“While in the bedroom together, [he] started by slapping her face, which culminated in him attempting to strangle her,” the tribunal heard at a hearing earlier this year. “The day following the reception, he pulled her hair, beat her, and kicked her in the stomach.”

When she became pregnant, he demanded she abort her baby as it might jeopardise her visa chances.

“When she refused, he kicked her repeatedly in the stomach. Later, he and his parents took the appellant to a local hospital and arranged for an abortion to be performed.”

She became suicidal and took rat poison in an attempt to kill herself.

Eventually the first part of his plan worked – the woman was granted a student visa in New Zealand – but his application for a dependent’s visa was twice rejected.

The tribunal was told he controlled her from India, including where she could live and work, and she was forced to send him money.

He told her to put her phone on video mode so he could watch her with colleagues at work and threatened to rape her sister, kill her brother and get her deported when she said she wanted a divorce.

The tribunal ruled she would not be safe if she returned either to her home region or as a single Sikh divorcee elsewhere in India.

“He threatened that if she did not secure a visa for him, or repay what he had spent on her immigration applications and support, he would seriously harm her and her family,” it said.

“Given the appellant’s experience of family history of mental illness, her own history of self-harm, and personal background of domestic violence (which she has experienced over a prolonged period from a young and impressionable age), she will be particularly vulnerable to future psychological and/or physical abuse. She still suffers from the effects of past abuse, including having an enforced abortion.”


Featured image: Photo: 123RF

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