Justice for Harpreet Kaur
"the family of the husband has abused the appellant (Harpreet Kaur) certainly verbally, and probably on occasion physically. The appellant's account is like a detailed diary... she has been the victim of domestic violence from the in-laws..." Judge Easterman
The case of Harpreet Kaur, a victim of an abusive marriage, in London, represents a gripping example of the devastating abuse that exists and continues behind closed doors within many homes in the UK Punjabi-Sikh community. Left Homeless. Sleeping on high street benches. Stripped of her money and clothes. Refused any financial maintenance from her husband. Hungry and homeless. Maliciously accused of adultery. Stuck in a quagmire of legal battles over divorce and immigration status in the UK.
"I have no certainty about my life. I have suffered so many emotional knocks. I don't know if I am going to be kicked out of the UK, tomorrow. I cannot plan ahead. I can only live day to day. My mind cannot rest. I am constantly agitated. I have no family to help me in the UK. I gave up my whole life and business in Singapore to make a positive start of a marriage in the UK. I have been thrown out onto the streets, and left to fend for myself. Why am I being persecuted like this? What have I done so wrong? I feel emotionally murdered. I feel on the verge of mental collapse," says Harpreet Kaur.
Harpreet came to the UK in July 2007 from her home country of Singapore, to begin married life. The ensuing two year marriage, living with the husband in his parents home, proved to be a roller-coaster of abuse - emotional, psychological and physical. Harpreet felt degraded, undermined, was violently attacked on various occasions, and was continuously belittled. Finally, the in-laws and her husband, resorted to baseless allegations that she was having an affair. This was used as a justification for preventing her return to the house and the family.
Needless, to say, such gross allegations, are a routine tactic within Punjabi and South Asian communities. Accuse a women of being loose, adulterous, etc, and you have automatically degraded and undermined her in the 'community'. The fickle and ignorant 'community', made up of an assortment of weird and wonderful individuals, care little for the facts, and more for the gossip! The in-law family sought to assassinate the character of Harpreet, through this standard and malicious allegation. When challenged to provide evidence of this allegation, the accusers have failed to provide any evidence!
As a result of ejecting Harpreet from the marriage and the marital home, in January 2010, Harpreet has was left homeless, sleeping rough on high street benches for many months. She suffered frost-bite due to the cold conditions. She was refused the right to stay in her local gurdwara. She slept outside the gurdwara gates on a number of occasions. She was physically assaulted inside the gurdwara, by a member of the in-law family circle, in full view of the local 'sangat'. However, no-one intervened, and the individual committing the attack was not rebuked by the Gurdwara officials. This epitomises the callous blindness that defines the Gurdwara leadership, and the insidious silence and inaction that runs across the Punjabi-Sikh community.
Sikhs in name only?
The Punjabi-Sikh community today, with its modern lifestyle, big, bombastic Gurdwaras, BMWs and Mercedes lifestyle, bhangra, and grotesquely materialistic weddings; is a far cry from the authentic Sikh community initiated by Guru Nanak in the 15th century and nurtured by the ensuing Sikh Gurus. We are 'Sikhs' only in name, not in thought and action. Proclamations of equality for women in the Sikh community, are completely baseless. Allowing women to attend Gurdwaras and read the Guru Granth Sahib, is not substantive evidence of equality. One needs to look into the actual day to day family and social life of the community, to see if equality, justice and dignity exists for the female.
The Punjabi-Sikh community, with its multiple 10-20 million pound Gurdwaras, is a community which routinely stands by as its female members are abused and murdered within its closed, secretive families. It is a community which hides a very dark secret, much like other South Asian communities. Many of its homes, hide the skeletons of daughter-in-laws, who have come and gone, experiencing intense abuse - psychological and physical. On fair estimate, no less than 1 in 3 daughters-in-law are victims of abusive in-laws in the Punjabi-Sikh population in the UK. Insecure, paranoid, jealous mother-in-laws who do not wish to be outdone by a younger, prettier face in the house; are a notorious feature in the Punjabi-Sikh community. These vampirish matriarchs, want the daughter-in-law to be no more than a distant second in the eyes of their husband sons.
The entire traditional extended family, arranged marriage, overwhelming demands and expectations of conformity to the family codes and customs; viciously conspire against the incoming daughter-in-law. She must conform and change, to fit in. The mummy's boy is another notorious feature. The telling declaration that, "my mother is the most important women in my life", is a clear signal to the daughter-in-law about where she belongs in the pecking order. In Harpreet's specific case, it was: "A man can get another wife, but he cannot get another mother." (text message to Harpreet).
Victimised in the Sikh community
Harpreet's entire life has been turned into an emotional and financial wreck. She has no certainty of her right to remain in the UK. She struggles and perseveres on in desperate, anguished hope from day to day. She is undergoing arduous and highly expensive legal battles to secure her right to indefinite leave to remain; having spent in excess of 10K on legal fees to date. She is going through the divorce courts, in her bid to secure her rights as a wronged wife, and secure her financial share of the marriage and retrieve her substantial personal property which remains with-held by her husband and in-laws.
As an overseas national from Singapore, Harpreet does not qualify for support with official public sector assistance - 'no recourse to public funds'. She cannot go into a women's refuge. She has no family in the UK, whom she can turn to for support and temporary refuge. On top of the psychological torture of her uncertain immigration status, she is besieged and paralysed with continuous legal costs for pursuing legal action in the courts on her divorce and immigration case.
Are Sikhs meant to treat women like this?
Is this how we want to treat our women, in the Sikh community? Harpreet's case is one of thousands in the UK. It reveals the horror behind the false images of apparent norm and success in the Punjabi-Sikh population. Behind the Sunday gatherings in Gurdwaras, the expensive BMWs and Mercedes cars, the extravagant nagar keertans every Vaisakhi. Lift the lid, and look more closely. You will find that the Punjabi-Sikh community is in a rotten mess. The continuous abuse of women, represents one of the many deep and permeating poisons which lurks within!
The domineering men, who run the entire community, from the Gurdwaras to the community events to anything and everything else; have no time for domestic violence issues or women's rights. They are concerned with their status in office, their ability to harness more and more public funding disguised as a 'community donations' to build their religious, imperious buildings which they use as their egotistical domains.
These imposing, monstrous buildings, with all their extravaganza and fanfare, have no space for women like Harpreet. None of the 10 or 20 million being spent on establishing these lavish physical structures, is directed at community development or empowerment projects - for youth, children, families nor women.
- Make a change! Make a stand for Harpreet!
- Please make a stand for Harpreet and others like her!
How can you help?
- 1. Support victims of abuse, inside and outside of marriage. Do not conform to the general silence and inaction, of Gurdwara Committees, religious parcharaks, and the self-interested amorphous mass known as the 'community' or 'sangat'. Make a stand. Be a moral, ethical voice of support for individual victims.
- 2. Help victims make contact with the local police, their MP, domestic violence co-ordinators and other support services.
Publicise their case in the media.
- 3. Set up a local forum or network, informal or formal, to support female victims.
- 4. HELP support the JUSTICE FOR HARPREET campaign.
- a)Help support her legal fund, to help her through the extensive and expensive legal proceedings. Please make a donation to:
- JUSTICE FOR SURJIT fund – Triodos Bank (www.triodos.co.uk), Account Number: 04178200, Sort Code: 165810.
- The JUSTICE FOR SURJIT | SURJEET (landmark case of Surjit Kaur Athwal), is helping HARPREET.
- b) Do an ardaas for Harpreet.
- c) Attend the forthcoming support gathering for Harpreet to be held in mid-May in Barking, to be announced very soon. Send out a united message of solidarity and action against these crimes against humanity against these vulnerable females.
- d) support the campaign for Harpreet to be given the right to remain in the UK and continue her life in a legally secure manner.
Where is the safety net?
"Why is it that, families and husbands can bring individuals like me as wives over to the UK, only to abuse them and then dump them at will. What protection do females like me have against such exploitation? We are abandoned victims, with no recourse to public funds. No safety net. Our entire finances and property is taken by the in-laws, and we have to battle intensely for our rights through the courts over a prolonged period. We are subject to commonplace character assassination, through sensationalised allegations of adultery. These are the common ploys of devious mother-in-laws, used back home in Punjabi against rival females. How is all this justice? Why are we so exposed to all this?" Harpreet Kaur
- Be a champion for change, like Guru Nanak!