If marriages are made in heaven, divorces are made on earth. As Indians across the country are investing more on lavish and extravagant weddings, the divorce count is silently increasing its space too. Recent reports reveal that more than 4,000 cases have come up in the last two years in various family courts in Bangalore. What’s more, according to a survey conducted by Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), a nongovernmental organization, as many as 17,000 divorce cases are pending in the city. The divorce industry seems to be booming. Should we be worried as increasing number of divorce petitions are being filed in courts than ever before?
It’s a change that can neither be denied nor avoided. This is possibly a signal toward a significant flux Indian society seems to be going through. On one hand, the changed attitude towards the term ‘divorce’ has transformed and that is a welcome change. It doesn’t mean the end of the world anymore, as it was considered to be a few decades ago. On the other hand, there still seems to be an inescapable clinging on to the archaic school of thought. Matrimonial advertisements —the best platform that allows individuals in search of their soul-mate to brag blatantly—is a significant place to look at. Even today, these ads do not refrain from attaching the adjective “innocent” before the term ‘divorcee’ just to be overtly clear of the fact that the concerned individual was not involved or responsible in the divorce he or she was a part of. Perhaps, it becomes increasingly important to assert that the potential bride/groom was a victim of a “bad marriage”. The position of the oppressor and oppressed is extremely significant in deciding the future of the individual who underwent the “trauma” of divorce. The person in question may have been a tyrant in his/her previous marriage but the word “innocent” seems to absolve him or her of any ill-doings.
Cause for the rise
One could possibly accuse couples of having less tolerance power but the fact of the matter is that they do not seem to compromise at the cost of jeopardizing their own personal wants, desires and needs. But, are people giving up too easily? It is difficult to foreground a single factor responsible for this increasing number. When analyzing a trend over a period of a few decades in a developing country like India, one needs to keep in mind that the society, apart from other factors like economy, people and culture, is constantly in a state of flux by the virtue of the fact that it is still developing. The question to be asked is not whether the change is positive or negative but whether this change has become inevitable. It is not a question of black and white but a tricky grey area we are dealing with.
The structure of a typical Indian family hasn’t changed from being patriarchal to matriarchal (except a few parts in Kerala, where it has been so since ages). However, the way a patriarchy functions has been modified so as to accommodate newer changes. There has been a shift from a single earning bread-winner, who, traditionally and in all probability, was the man, to double income families, where both the partners are earning, more out of economic necessity than individual desire. Dr. Vijay Nagaswami, author of The Fifty-50 Marriage, a bestseller book on marriage and relationships, says that greater independence—both sexual as well as economic—have been contributing factors of increased divorce rates.
Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the introduction of Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to further amend the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, so as to include ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of marriage as legitimate grounds for getting a divorce. For one, this move should reduce the number of ‘false’ cases being filed under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code or the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This is because it is alleged that many use these options to pressurize their partners into divorce and even alimony money. But again, the ruling by the apex court garnered mixed reactions from both the liberals and conservative section of our society. People still cling on to the proverbial definition of marriage as a sacrament, too pure and destined to be disturbed and contaminated by the blow of divorce. If not anything else, the ruling has come as a breezer for those who are still married only because of their children.
The immediate victim
This brings us to a very crucial aspect of any marriage—children. They say a couple may get divorced but parents should never get separated. This is because the child is the first and often, the worst, victim of a marriage gone wrong. But, perhaps we need to realize that today’s children are beginning to understand and possibly even accept that it is completely normal if their parents are unable to live with each other. Nagaswami feels this is both good and bad. “Good because they are not going to get devastated if they are compelled to go through a divorce and bad because they are unnecessarily traumatized in the process (since most divorces are bitter and acrimonious) and find it hard to heal themselves,” he says.
A recent trend has been the rising incidence of separation and divorce amongst people who have been married for 25 plus years, who are looking for new lives after being in marriages of convenience that lasted the distance only because of the children. This still seems to be a bitter pill to swallow even for the most liberal and right thinking people. Twenty five years of togetherness seems just too long a time to contemplate separation, no matter however drastic the reason may be. After such a long time of being together, people assume that the two have taken each other for granted. To be fair, divorce should be an option, but only the final one, and to be exercised only after all avenues to rapprochement have been adequately explored.
P.S. The above article appears in the March edition of The Beat, an IIJNM magazine publication