India’s Gloriavale and the Kiwi women there

India’s Gloriavale and the Kiwi women there

| RNZ | The Detail | Gen McClure|

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The Gloriavale offshoot in India is home to Kiwi women and children. A former member of the sect says getting them out of there is urgent.

When Theo Pratt saw her sister in India’s Gloriavale outpost last year, she was horrified.

“She was just like a shell of the person I remembered as my sister. I was very taken aback, I didn’t expect it to be that bad,” she says. “She was so lifeless.”

Pratt was in India to check on her sister and the other women and children living there.

On Tuesday, the final episode of TVNZ’s three-part documentary, Escaping Utopia, revealed the existence of this offshoot in India. But as Pratt told The Detail, she’s known about it for years – and has tried for about seven years to get help.

“I’ve been trying to find a way to get the government and to get someone to realise what was happening and what Gloriavale was doing with sending women to India,” Pratt says.

“Over the years I’ve met with human rights people, and lawyers, and media people, and at the end of the day it was in the too-hard basket and no one was going to touch it because it’s Gloriavale and it’s so complicated.”

Pratt says of the small community there, five are New Zealand women married to Indian men, and 35 are their children. She says the women don’t have access to their passports, and some of the children don’t even have birth certificates. Peter Righteous, one of Gloriavale’s leaders, denies this, saying that the Gloriavale members there would be able to leave “at the drop of a hat”. 

Pratt also says that the oldest of the New Zealand children is 13 or 14, and the plan is to begin to marry them to each other in a few years.

“Those kids and those women are hugely at risk.” 

The Detail also speaks with Brian Henry, a barrister who has acted for plaintiffs against Gloriavale in a number of cases. Yesterday he was in Wellington to file proceedings for a new case. His claim is that the civil servants involved in two committees which were responsible for monitoring Gloriavale have failed the victims. 

“We’re coming after these civil servants, I’m going to identify every one of them and we’re going to sue them because they haven’t done their job,” he says. 

For Henry, a huge frustration is that the abuse has spanned decades – and that it’s been known about for decades, too. He refers to journalist Melanie Reid’s investigation, in the mid-1990s, which uncovered sexual abuse in the community. 

“Most of my plaintiffs at that stage were little babies and they’re now young women and they have gone through a life of hell that should’ve been stopped right back then,” he says.