July 16, 2009

Instant Divorces


LATELY, I SEEM TO BE hearing a lot about the break-up of marriages and subsequent divorces. There was the Hiphop Grandmom writing on incompatible alliances and how they’ve led to the breakdown of marriages. Then, today, over at the F Word Blog, I read a piece on how British Tory party members want a provision for a ‘three month cooling off’ period in divorce cases. If you look at the comments section on HHG’s piece as well, you will see one line of thought that couples are getting divorced “too easily” or for “frivolous” reasons.

In the last 3 years, I’ve seen a number of people in my own circle applying for divorce. Now, the plural of anecdote is not data, but considering the friends I’ve seen and human nature and Indian society, I feel that people who are going in for a divorce are not doing so for frivolous reasons or on a whim. You may not agree with their specific reason, or you may think they should have tried harder, but whatever it is, I feel divorce is still a very hard route to take, not the easy way out.


One. Marriage is still the holy grail. However accomplished we are, whatever shape our careers may be in, marriage is still presented as pretty much the biggest thing in women’s lives and it is drilled into our heads that a marriage is something we must keep at any cost. Because of this, most women will hesitate to think of divorce, unless the situation really calls for one.

Two. Marriage is not just about two individuals. In India at least, most marriages, even ‘love marriages’ are not just between two individuals. The family is involved in a big way, the wedding ceremony is a huge event and there are still very high personal and social costs to breaking it up (beginning with not getting your jewellery back to having your in-laws spread malicious rumours about you within the community, it all happens.) With so many people involved, the divorce can rarely be amicable. Not just that, chances are your own family will be the strongest voices urging you not to go in for a divorce. For people to disregard all that and go in for divorce – well, that says something about the marriage, doesn’t it?

Three. Both for men and women (perhaps more so for the latter), while ‘divorcee’ may not carry the kind of stigma it once did, its not exactly acceptable either. If the person wants to remarry and goes down the traditional arranged route again, in almost every case, they (esp. women) will need to look for a divorcee or a widower. Few single people would be willing to ‘risk’ going with someone who’s been divorced once. Having to marry a divorcee or a widower is not of course in itself a bad thing, but what I’m trying to say is – the choice basket for a divorcee, esp a divorced woman gets considerably narrow.

Four. Economic dependence. Let’s assume this is not an issue for many younger, well-off couples where both partners are working. But, if there are kids in the equation, it is highly likely that the woman would have either slowed down on the career track, lost a few years or given up her career altogether, all impacting her earnings. It’s not an easy decision to take, to go from a financially-secure-if-unhappy home to making your own way again, especially if you are at an age where restarting your career is difficult. Also, not all families allow women to work, so there will be many younger women who’ve simply never worked outside the home in their lives. What about poorer people? Here in fact, women are more likely to be working and supporting the family, so they are not totally dependent. But, even today, few women own assets like farmland or property that can be a safety net. Plus, go back to point number three.

Five. Post-purchase rationalization. Not just in India, but everywhere in the world, people invest of themselves significantly in a marriage. If they’ve made the choice of partner themselves, they’re likely to take some pride in it. And when there is pride in one’s choice, there will always be some amount of post-purchase rationalization. He’s not alcoholic, just someone who likes his drink. She will give up her career eventually. It’s human nature to do this. People don’t like to just abandon the choices they’ve made, because that says something about them. In the Indian context, in arranged marriages, this is one reason why parents are often so strongly in favour of working on the marriage.

Considering all of this, is it time we stopped thinking of those going in for divorces as silly people fighting because one person doesn’t leave the toilet seat up? Let’s acknowledge the reality of people’s lives which is that marriages break down for a variety of reasons, few outsiders known the inside story, no one really asks for emotional upheaval in their lives and not every marriage is worth saving.

16 comments to Instant Divorces

  • Nayantara

    So, so right. It’s very easy for society to dismiss the so-called frivolous reasons. I particularly loved point number four.

  • Divorce’s social cost in India is having an unintended consequence.

    These days, many Indian women, after the breakdown of their marriage and before their divorce, take their anger out on the husband and his extended family by taking recourse to biased laws such as IPC 498a and the PWDV Act (2005). The rationale seems to be that since the woman’s life has been “ruined” why should the man have it easy.

    In metros, this is assuming epidemic proportions. The flip-side is that genuinely aggrieved women are not finding anyone willing to believe them, in such a chaos of false cases.

    Families play a sad role in all this by egging on the daughter/son to completely destroy the other person’s personality in public, and by assuring their daughters that they will profit financially (esp if the husband is an NRI/techie).

    And then, there are those NRI husbands who abuse their wives and treat them as doormats after taking them to a foreign country, where the women dare not raise their voices (for many reasons: woman’s relatives don’t want her to come back but instead want her to invite them also to the other shore).

    Indian society is “sick” in so many ways which are uniquely Indian.

  • At the same context has changed and today persons grow up differently, giving more importance to certain aspects and “needs” of our lives as individuals. Thus people who think that divorcing is easier or frivolous today, may not be really looking at the reasons in the same way as the concerned persons.

  • […] on July 16, 2009 – 7:04 pmNo Comment Aparna Singh at  Ultra Violet shares her view that despite the uprise in the sort of split cases in India, a split is never the cushy artefact […]

  • very true.
    though people just cite the trivial issues, i feel there could be a lot many grave issues and probably they dont want to let it out.
    generally when we come across instances of divorce among people we know, we always hear only one side of the story. there’s probably more to it than what meets the eye.

    the financial, emotional, and social independance of women are on the rise too. so they don’t let anyone walk all over them anymore.

  • Your point 3 is very pertinent- I would aslo like to add that it is a double whammy for divorced women in the coporate world – men feel more free to paw you and make advances since you are unattached and not a virgin and not being acceptive of these overtures can cost you!!!
    At the same time, none of these men would think you would make a good wife coz you have failed once, and like always, it is the woman’s fault..hence she can’t be trusted.
    Divorced women in the corporate world are perhaps most easily maligned by their male counterparts, and for no fault of theirs are their characters spoken of as questionable.
    So, I don’t know if any of the taboo or stigma has really reduced for women.

  • Well, the fact is that it is happening and will continue to happen…because, we have decided to overlook the fact that in any relation there are two aspects…natural and social.
    This discussion can’t happen through comments…the fact remains that like all socially created taboos, marriage is nothing more than a social taboo. Did not you experience love before marriage or did not feel the physical urge towards someone else after marriage or think that you cannot like someone without marriage or even cannot share responsility without marriage?
    Like I had written in my blog that “I love you is the biggest lie” because the truth is “I only love myself and I tell you that I love you is only because you satisfy my senses”. So also is the unwarranted importance of marriage…naturally you will feel the mental and physical urge, married or unmarried…one can still be responsible towards the kids and spouse because that is natural human behaviour. Don’t you have cases of physical relationship in offices or share your personal problems with friends?
    So much importance should be given to a human existence but we only give importance to a social act called marriage….

  • Rakhi Pande

    Aparna Singh, your point of view is one hundred percent correct. This is the best written piece on this subject and am so glad to read it. A divorce can be for frivolous reasons only if the marriage was for a frivolous reason in the first place – to get a green card or home rental, like some claim. In my experience, the same people who consider it frivolous, are usually getting malicious pleasure out of speculation for why it happened. Especially so, if you choose not to wash your or rather, your ex’s dirty linen in public.

    All your listed reasons are relevant because that’s the reality of what someone thinking of divorce has to battle. I fully endorse that even in this day and age, in India, a woman has a lot more to lose as compared to a man when a dreaded “divorcee”.

  • Just wondering if anyone is planning on writing on the whole Rita Joshi – Mayawati fracas..would love to hear a non political voice on it

  • […] Singh at  Ultra Violet shares her view that despite the rise in the number of divorce cases in India, a divorce is never the easy way out […]

  • apu

    Thanks all for your comments. I think society is slowing changing – but people have to become a lot more sensitive (and aware, as some of you pointed out, that outsiders may not know all the facts of the case).
    Harmanjit – while I have seen websites claiming abuse of 498a, I have not come across any authentic data on the % of false cases.

  • Vidyanand

    Divorce is a Hard truth especially for men after commiting and organising a family structure, just like a Doctor removes a posionious part from the body if necessary to protect the rest of the sole…it becomes madatory to eliminate un-compatable parter by loosing his prestage, social reputaion and lots of money…Indian women is always in a safer side in this whole epipode, She can file fake 498a,DV on husbands family to grab money and assets, More over I say now a days a Man with 2-3 daughters is a lucky…just hook them to rich families file 498a’s and grab as much as you can, Its hard truth but should accept Indian society has lost it family cultural and moral values totally…we can see those example items in family courts & women criminal courts.

  • Vidyanand

    I totally don’t agree to the above Feminists words … if any one want to debate please feel free to send me your thoughts for clarification, My address vidyanand123@rediffmail.com

  • I know that I have come late to the party. But, I am new to this site and I found this post very interesting and relevant.

    A few thoughts…

    There was an article in the Hindu titled “Divorce can be granted even if consent is withdrawn: court”. It said:

    “Writing the judgment, Justice Kabir cited Supreme Court judgments and said no purpose would be served by prolonging the agony of the parties to a marriage which had broken down irretrievably, and the curtain had to be rung down at some stage.”

    I do not understand how the court works with “prolonging the agony” and “the curtain had to be rung down at some stage”. In the given link/website, I wanted to suggest that divorce should be made as easy as marriage – then, the number of cases in court might probably come down when people cannot use the judicial system to trouble and torture others.

  • Here from Apu’s blog. Brilliant post. Totally agree.

  • Mandeep singh

    I have read all the posts all are relevant and interesting, Yes Swapna, your last statements are true, if there is nothing to torture in the judicial system about divorce then the cases will comedown as well as it may be possible that the divorce rate come down too. other thing when two people are married and find later that they cannot co-exist or even one finds it that he or she cannot co-exist with the other they should have full power to dissolve their marriage, because in such cases both will not be happy with one another. Also the life of both will be miserable. Today it is need that the youth and government to get up from sleep and see what is happening around.

    Agony: It is something that should not interfere in breakdown of marriage, and if it is there the ego’s of people are clashing.

    Devorce: Today through laws the divorce has has become instrument to fetch money. I think the right should be in the hands of the both the individuals who are married.

    but what to do i cant see youth is rising to these thought rather in some cases I have seen the husbands family has lost too much. ya one thing more I feel girls are getting opportunities, Please don’t get me wrong on this, girls should take their own decisions as they are the ones who better know what should be done in their families after marriage and they should share the duty with their husbands to keep the relation going.

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