Indian Women Abroad Are Not Exempt From Gender Based Violence

In 2012, the Nirbhaya rape case shook the world with its barbarity and left Indians, both in India and abroad, reeling. However, almost half a decade after the incident, even as #metoo dominates social media and news, gender-based violence continues to affect women not only in India but also in the Indian communities abroad.

According to a report published by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, 54% of Asian women in the US (including immigrants) have experienced some form of sexual violence. The report also cites a study of 143 survivors of domestic violence in the United States, in which 64% of Indian and Pakistani women reported experiencing sexual violence by an intimate partner. However, these numbers may not accurately represent the true extent of gender-based violence. Some women and men may not report domestic and sexual violence because of cultural norms, social stigma, lack of financial support and even their visa status.

Domestic violence, in particular, is a well- known secret in many Indian households regardless of their prosperity. In April 2017, the Indian American community in the Silicon Valley was shocked when a prominent member of the community was accused and proved guilty of charges of domestic abuse. In January 2018, a woman of Indian – Caribbean origin was found murdered in New York, she was a victim of domestic abuse as well.

In addition to domestic and sexual abuse, some Non-Resident Indians have been accused of deserting their Indian wives. Many of these “abandoned wives” have had to face social humiliation in their villages and hometowns. Furthermore, lack of proper paperwork, insufficient finances, and social pressure does not allow these women to take actions against the “husbands” who have abandoned them and may already have families abroad. However, gender-based violence against women often manifests itself even before a child is born. In India and amongst different Indian communities abroad, the preference for a son has continued. In India, sex-selective abortions and female infanticides are a big problem, especially in states like Haryana and Punjab. There is also fear that sex-selective abortions and female foeticides may be occurring amongst Indian communities abroad.

The impact of gender-based violence can be long-lasting and does not only affect women, but also entire communities. For example, female foeticides and sex-selective abortions in communities may create shortages in the labor force and even lead to a “shortage” of brides in the community. This, in turn, may create a hostile environment for the surviving women, and may even increase the risk of human trafficking and forced marriages to fulfill the demands of society with the gender imbalance. The women in such environments may then also face other forms of gender-based violence such as domestic and sexual violence.

However, efforts have been made both in India as well as amongst Indian communities abroad to create avenues for women to seek help and report crimes committed against them. The Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi recently announced that all NRI marriages solemnized in India would have to be registered within 48 hours, to ensure the safety of women who marry NRIs and reduce the chances of their abandonment.

USINPAC had the pleasure of hosting a diverse delegation of experts and advocates in the field of combating gender-based violence in India and abroad. Not only did that delegation provide insight into the vile and disparaging issues that arise from gender violence and harassment, it showed that more needs to be done, both in India and outside of it. USINPAC looks forward to raising awareness of this issue.

For Indian women abroad, language barriers, racism, and visa status may create additional hurdles to getting proper help. There are several South Asian women’s help groups and NGOs, such as ASHA for Women, Sakhi, and Manavi that can assist Indian women in the United States.

Other resources available include:

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
www.ndvh.org

National Sexual Assault Hotline of the Rape, Abuse
and Incest National Network (RAINN)
1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)
www.rainn.org

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)
www.missingkids.com

The National Center for Victims of Crime
1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255)
1-800-211-7996 (TTY)
www.ncvc.org

Children Holding H-4 Visas Worry About Their Fate

A backlog of green cards is causing more than just headaches and long wait times; it’s causing some children to question their future in the United States. Children of highly skilled workers holding H-1B visas are aging out before their parents’ green card request is being filled. Turning 21 means that these children are no longer eligible for H-4 dependent visas and are faced with deportation back to India or applying for an F-1 student visa and hoping their new visa is accepted in time. Many of these children had lived in the United States since they were toddlers and feel that they have adopted the US as their home country, now they feel that they are left in limbo, and their dreams are being put on hold.

There are currently little legislative proposals in place for these ‘legal dreamers’, but groups such as the Skilled Immigrants in America (SIIA) are spending time trying to get the ball rolling by speaking with lawmakers on both sides. They spoke with over 150 representatives according to one source. The SIIA website is full of scanned copies of handwritten letters to representatives and senators written by children and young adults who could be affected by the aging out process one day. These letters ask representatives to not forget about them and how these children came to the United States legally with their highly-skilled parents who pay taxes. The letters tell the story of how these children have come to call the United States their home, speak about their hobbies and achievements, and explains what they want to be when they grow up; many of them want to be doctors and engineers to give back to the country that has raised them.

Representative Ro Khanna of California, who USINPAC is currently trying to reach out to, issued a petition supported by the Shah Peerally Law Group PC that called on the government to “extend the H-4 visa time for H-1B dependent children beyond 21” as well as “to all them [H-1B dependent children] to benefit from the application of adjustment of status through their parents under the Child Status Protection Act.” Currently, the petition is available to sign on change.org and has 1,730 signatures out of its 2,500 signature goal. Through the Child Status Protection Act an individual could still be classified as a child even if they are over the age of 21 and if they had aged out of the green card process due to extensive processing time. Currently, though, the delay for green cards is not due to processing time, but the backlog of people of Indian origin waiting for green cards. The problem for Indians waiting for green cards in the bottleneck that is happening rather than extensive processing times. There are a huge pool of people applying for green cards, but relatively few slots available for them each year.

Highly-skilled Indian immigrants can expect wait times up to 70 years to receive green cards and permanent residency because of the country cap that is currently in place. This cap states that each country, no matter the size or population of the country, to be issued only 7% of the 140,000 employment-based green cards given out. If a country fills it’s 5,000 applicant slots, there are no more applicants allowed, and if a country does not fill all of its slots, then those green cards are not used. By allowing unused green card slots to roll over to use in overflow areas, we could alleviate the backlog of highly-skilled Indian workers who are already within the United States and prevent the problem of children aging out before receiving their permanent residency. This solution allows for these children to continue a path of success from the country that they had always called home. Currently, though, there are no policies being discussed to help those children affected by the H-1B visa backlog.

USINPAC will be hosting a panel about the current green card backlog next month where they will discuss ways to relive the backlog. If you would like to write to your representative, you can start by finding your representative on our website. Please click the ‘FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE’ tab on the home screen, and on the drop down menu select the Senators/Representatives tab. From there you can select your state or search alphabetically.

USINPAC Congratulates Indian American Members of Congress for winning California Primaries

Defence

Indian-American Congressmen Ami Bera and Ro Khanna won their respective primaries in California and will run for Congressional seats for the U.S. House of Representatives in elections to be held in November 2018. USINPAC has supported both candidates in the past and continues to extend support that is significant to the candidates and for the Indian American community.

Three-time Congressman Ami Bera from the 7th Congressional District of California received more than 51 percent of the votes in the open primary. His nearest rival, Andrew Grant from the Republican Party, received only 32.9 percent of the votes. “Dr. Ami Bera is humbled by the overwhelming support in his primary victory last night, and it is a testament to the real results he’s achieved for California’s 7th Congressional District,” his campaign manager said.

Congressman Khanna, who entered the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 2017, received an overwhelming 58.9 percent of the votes in the open primary for the 17th Congressional District of California. His nearest rival Ron Cohen from the Republican Party received 25 per cent of the votes.

In California, the top two candidates in a district irrespective of their party affiliation in the open primary head for the general elections.

Defence

Both Bera and Khanna, who represent different areas of Silicon Valley, are expected to win their House races in November. On behalf of the Indian American community, USINPAC congratulates Mr. Bera and Mr. Khanna on their victories in the primaries and looks forward to their wins in the 2018 midterm elections this November.

The three other Indian-Americans – Hirsh Singh, Goutam Jois, and Peter Jacob — who were running for the U.S. Congress from New Jersey lost their Congressional bids at the primary level.

Buttressing U.S. – India Relations

Defence
For too long, the U.S. has been going from crisis to crisis: Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Because India is a large, stable democracy, there is sometimes a sense that the U.S. can buttress relations with India, later, after the “crisis of the moment” is over. That’s not good enough. We need a broad-based partnership that should be viewed and built in the context of U.S.-Asia Pacific relations. Why?

According to the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), “There are few regions as culturally, socially, economically, and geopolitically diverse as the Asia-Pacific. The 36 nations comprising the Asia-Pacific region are home to more than 50% of the world’s population, 3,000 different languages, several of the world’s largest militaries, and five nations allied with the U.S. through mutual defense treaties. Two of the three [now top three] largest economies are located in the Asia-Pacific, along with ten of the fourteen smallest. The [Asia-Pacific region] includes the most populous nation in the world, the largest democracy, and the largest Muslim-majority nation. More than one-third of Asia-Pacific nations are smaller, island nations, including the smallest republic in the world and the smallest nation in Asia…. The region is a vital driver of the global economy and includes the world’s busiest international sea lanes and nine of the ten largest ports. The Asia-Pacific is also a heavily militarized region…. Given these conditions, the strategic complexity facing the region is unique.”

“Unique” is an understatement, which is why we need to deepen U.S.-India relations in a more thoughtful way. While protection of intellectual copyright, human rights, religious freedom, high tariff rates and localization barriers are very important, Congress should not use these issues to divide us. The U.S. and India have shared interests, and our shared interests should take center stage – at home and abroad. Whatever differences there are between us, India is the world’s largest democracy. America is the oldest. Democracy ought to be the glue that forges us. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

The same can be said of the U.S.-India relationship. No one pretends that it is perfect. But it just might exceed our expectations if we reshape our thoughts and actions. And so, in a new series of postings, this blog will put forth step-by-step ways about how we can buttress our relationship beyond security-related posturing, though security is and should be an essential component of our partnership. So should a U.S.-India Investment treaty and sensible dialogue on people mobility. Our partnership has the potential to influence regional and global policy-making, and it’s high-time we make a hard push for a special relationship between the U.S. and India.

US Passes Defence Budget- A new step towards stronger India ties

DefenceAs both the United States and India look forward to strengthening their defense partnership, the recent passage of the American defense budget is a clear step in the right direction. Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA), one of the five Indian-American members of Congress, attached an amendment to the budget that addresses the strategic alliance between the two nations. While the amendment does not specifically allocate any of the defense budget, which totals over $621 billion, it does set a 180 day deadline for the development of a strategy that will advance the U.S.-India defense partnership. The amendment requires that the Department of Defense and the Department of State work together to form this strategy. The passage of this amendment is a concrete action by Congress that shows that representatives value strong bilateral relations with India and recognize the mutually beneficial nature of the relationship.

Furthermore, the addition of this amendment displays the importance of Indian-American representation in Congress. Indian-American representatives that advocate for the community, like Congressman Bera, help ensure that the needs of Indian-Americans are properly represented and that the community remains visible to the American population as a whole. As the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) moves to the Senate, it is exciting that Senator Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American senator, will be able to represent the Indian-American community, as well.

Ultimately, the United States-India defense partnership is key to maintaining geopolitical stability in Asia and across the entire world. Especially after the successful visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House in late June, it is integral that bilateral relations progress at a swift pace. Fortunately, there are many indicators U.S. government seems to be enthusiastically working with India to accomplish this task. On July 14th, the U.S Department of Defense published an article titled “U.S.-India Defense Relationship on Positive Trajectory, DoD Official Says,” which discusses the recent selling of both manned and unmanned American aircraft to India. Additionally, the article highlights the productive meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Prime Minister Modi. All in all, the increased focus on the relationship between the United States and India over the last month demonstrates that the American public views India as a critical ally, and that both nations are excited to advance their partnership.