Marrying a divorced woman is a big challenge in India
The idea of marrying a divorced woman in India is riddled with social stigmas! While it is true that divorced women do get married in India, the ground reality is that not too many single men prefer marrying a divorced woman in India. Since, there are so many social stigmas and family pressure attached to divorce, men prefer to take the easy way out.
Take for example the matrimony section in any newspaper. Out of the hundreds of matrimony ads, you will be hard pressed to find one divorcee looking to remarry or single men openly declaring that they are open to marrying a divorcee. Just goes to show that the idea of a divorced woman getting remarried is still not done through traditional means such as arranged marriages.
Arranged marriages in India might be more stable, however, it is in no way a measure of success as social pressures and stigma associated with divorces force people to live through an unhappy marriage.
Although middle-class women are taking charge, in rural India, it is mostly men who initiate most divorce or leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves. Poor women in rural India are just abandoned by men and have very little chances of remarriage because of the rules of their caste.
The reason divorce rates are increasing is because educated Indian women now have an option. “Women don’t want to lie down and take it anymore,” says Julie George, a Pune-based lawyer in matrimonial cases. “There is a lot more independence, freedom. Women who work are financially independent and aren’t prepared to put up with a husband who harasses them.”
Most of the online matrimonial websites are targeted towards 20 somethings and people marrying for the first time, a niche website targeting divorcees was required. Secondshaadi.com does just that. It targets divorced people around India and helps them remarry.
Divorced women do get married.
Divorce is not the end for women, the story goes on…
Divorce doesn’t mean the end of the world to the modern Indian women. They are very much open to the idea of remarriage and are willing to start afresh.
Let us glimpse through three key reasons why divorced women in India are embracing marriage the second time.
1. Sparks flying all over again
What better reason than love for marrying again! The modern Indian woman is free of inhibitions and is ready to go out there and take the plunge all over again. She is open to meeting new people, making new friends and getting emotionally involved, all of which often leads her to find the love of her life once again.
2. A shoulder to lean on
Divorce takes an adverse toll on the woman’s health, both mentally and physically. Remarrying gives women a chance to restore their emotional stability and get some normalcy back into their lives.
3. Money makes the world go round
Financial stability is yet another reason why women remarry. Having income coming from two sources is definitely better than one. It greatly improves the standard of living, even more so if the woman is with a child from the earlier marriage.
Why Indian women divorce and what men can learn?
If you are open to marrying a divorced woman or even if you think it’s not for you, understanding why women in India divorce will help you understand their perspective better. Who knows, you may actually change your opinion about marrying a divorced woman after all!
1. Increasing opportunities to be financially independent
Women in India are better educated and more career oriented than ever before. Women are now more independent and financially secure in their own rights. Therefore, women, these days are more empowered to leave marriages that make them miserable.
Men, take note. Women like to do more than just be a housewife. More and more women like to work and have a career that they can be proud of, just like you. Take pride in helping them achieve their career goals.
2. Saying ‘NO’ to gender specific roles
India, being a country where gender categorization is still prevalent, women feel stuck doing household chores, especially if there is no help from her husband.
Getting cooped up in gender specific roles is a big no for the Indian woman today. Issues pertaining to the gender specific role assigned to women often paves the way for a divorce.
Marriage is an equal responsibility. It takes effort from both sides to work out a marriage. Don’t just sit there and let her do all the work. Don’t be a burden, help her out instead. Take charge and share responsibilities.
Let’s face it, one of the major reasons why women file for divorce is because of adultery. As women are becoming increasingly empowered, they don’t want to be in a relationship where they are not being appreciated. They would rather go solo.
Remember men, adultery causes a major blow to any relationship. The feelings of compassion, love, and all things that built a relationship disappear and all that is left are guilt and anger. Do yourself and your relationship a favor, never cheat.
Failed marriages provide a great opportunity to learn not only for the divorcee but also for the man who is marrying a divorced woman. It forces you to come to terms with your shortcomings and who you are as a person. It forces you to take charge and start working on the traits of your personality that you want to change.
What you should know before marrying a divorced woman
Via Royal Challenger’s Flickr Stream
India is still a largely patriarchal country. Although women in this country are breaking new ground every day, the problem of male dominance is still prevalent in India. In most situations, men get off with a slap on the wrist while the women are publicly shamed. This transcends to divorce cases as well.
If you are open to marrying a divorced woman, just remember that she has many fine qualities that are shaped by her experiences. Here are a few things that you should know about before marrying a divorced woman.
1. Finding joy in less is an art
Divorced women don’t have it easy. Living conditions plummet because the available money is halved and the expenses rise.
Let’s take the case of Jyoti Chatterjee. When her husband decided to leave and live in with his mistress, she did have the means to survive. However, there were a lot of things that she could not afford. Holidays or necessities like an air conditioner became a luxury.
She says, “None of them necessities, considering I had enough money to put food on the table. But…at a time of emotional turmoil like a divorce, one can do with some creature comforts to cheer oneself up”.
Divorced women end up mastering the art of finding less expensive ways to lead their lives and strive a bit harder to earn more. These are fine qualities indeed!
2. Managing both work and child takes a lot
Divorce can be pretty rough on a child. When a couple with a child files for a divorce, the child’s world falls apart because of the two people whom he/she loves the most do not love each other anymore. This makes the child, who is scared, rebellious, angry and probably depressed, act out his emotions. This is the time when a child needs all the attention from the parent.
A divorced woman with a child has to bear additional responsibilities and play multiple roles. Doing the grind; performing well in the office, doing household chores and simultaneously taking care of the child. Managing all this and still coming out on top is what makes these women worth it.
3. Ability to overcome social stigma
Although the stigma related to divorce in India has waned considerably, it is still prevalent. Divorced women are still looked down upon, sometimes by their own family members. A divorced woman effectively becomes a social pariah, and she is not welcome by her own friends and family members.
However, all this hate actually helps a woman find her true self and push her to become better in her own right and start living life on her own terms. As you can see a divorced woman is no pushover!
4. Mental toughness
Divorce breaks a person. It takes a lot of effort and willpower to get back up and continue living life. There are times, after a divorce, during which a woman might suffer from severe episodes of depression.
However, with time, even the blackest of days turn into distant memories. A woman, who goes through such a difficult phase in her life, turns out to be stronger and more independent.
5. She has her side of the story as well
People in India have this absurd notion that divorced women are damaged goods and that they should not get married again. They have a preconceived notion that if a woman is divorced, there is something wrong with her.
Randomly jumping on to conclusions helps no one. There are two sides to every coin. It is important to know both sides of the story before arriving at any conclusion. In reality, there are no damaged goods, only damaged expectations.
6. She is not a burden to the society
Indian society largely views divorced and separated women as outcasts and treats them harshly. Divorced women are looked upon with disgrace and are a harassed lot.
It so happens that the people who were thought to be a woman’s friends start distancing themselves from the woman. Married friends don’t know what to do with them and the dinner invitations dry up.
Single friends are much better in this regard as fewer of them disappear. A woman having common friends with her husband might have to deal with the friends choosing sides and lining up with her husband instead of her.
7. Learn how to deal with stepchildren
The possibility of having stepchildren is very real when marrying a divorced woman. If you are marrying a divorced woman with a child, it is important to give the stepchild time and space to grieve. Include the stepchildren in the household chores so that they feel like a part of the family.
It is important to maintain a steady friendship with your stepchildren. Don’t rush into it, give them some time to open up to you. Remember, communication is the key to having a fulfilling relationship with your step children.
The relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild is definitely challenging. However, if you are marrying a divorced woman with kids in tow, it is essential you learn how to build a lasting relationship with the stepchildren for the long-term happiness and security of your new family.
A divorced woman goes through a lot. From social stigmas to financial troubles to loneliness and much more. All a divorced woman wants is your understanding and your support. Take responsibility, share her load and make her feel as loved as possible. If she has a child from her previous marriage, make the child feel at home and as comfortable as possible. Make your house as harmonious as possible by caring for the ones you love. Make all possible efforts for her to open up to you and make her feel safe and secure.
Divorce in India is no longer the rare breed of animal we get to hear about in a distant world. ‘Divorce’ or the big D word is now heard more frequently than before.
While high-profile celebrity divorces are treated as salacious sources of speculation and gossip in India, the reality is considerably different when divorce happens to ordinary couples. Complex socio-cultural factors, convoluted legal system and divorce procedure, and the conservative mindset of society make divorce in India a very a challenging task. In fact, it can be confusing and outright scary to go through a divorce in India.
While no official statistics are available, it is generally accepted that the divorce rate in India is very low as compared to developed nations like the UK which has a divorce rate of 2.8 divorces in 1000.
The alarming increase in the number of cases related to divorce in India indicates a steady but subtle shift in the underlying socio-cultural fabric of the country. There are four primary reasons for this trend.
1. The reduced influence of the joint family
The concept of the joint family had a very disciplinary effect on marriages where couples stayed together through really rough patches and difficult times to appease the needs/respect of the family. The concept of nuclear family, on the other hand, gives couples more liberty to think only about their own interests leading to an increased tendency to divorce.
Nuclear families don’t have the support system that a joint family may offer to tide over a crisis. A joint family set up provides the option of mediation and also imposes peer pressure in ensuring a successful marriage.
2. Women are becoming more independent
Another factor that contributes to this increasing trend of divorce in Indiais the fact that women are psychologically and financially more independent now leading them to break free from what can be termed as “restraining” or “unsatisfactory” marriages.
Women in India have already started to exercise choice before marriage as their economic and educational background is improving. The same trend is seen in decisions after marriage. Educated working women may not have the time needed to focus on running the household and this creates a lot of stress on the family resulting in divorce.
3. Late marriages mean lesser ‘tolerance’ for change in lifestyle
Couples nowadays get married late in life and both partners enter wedlock with fixed behaviour patterns and lifestyle, making it more difficult for them to adjust to each other.
Couples in India often find that they have nothing in common only after marriage. They cannot get along, have unresolved differences, and cannot agree on anything!
Here is an extract from Psychology Today that sums up the situation for many couples – Invariably, we yearn for perfection but are stuck with an imperfect human being. We all fall in love with people we think will deliver us from life’s wounds but who wind up knowing how to rub against us.
4. Divorce is no longer a big deal!
Family court lawyers indicate a changing perspective towards divorce and a marked reduction in the stigma associated with divorces, which is why couples opt out of a marriage that has in essence degraded. The reasons for divorce earlier used to be property disputes, domestic violence, and family issues while modern age couples file for divorce because of emotional incompatibility, lifestyle differences, and disenchantment with each other.
Data collected from psychotherapists and marriage counsellors indicate that couples are more willing to end a marriage that isn’t working. In fact, the practice of attending counselling sessions or therapy goes beyond mending the relationship. In many cases, families are also counselled about the need to support the couple’s decision to seek a divorce.
Indian women and divorce – Bankruptcy or Liberation?
While divorce in India is is generally not looked upon favourably, there has been a growing acceptance of the fact that marriages do end and that divorce is not a sin. The way the woman is treated post-divorce depends on her individual circumstances, financial position and the strata of society she belongs to.
People in the metros tend to be more accommodating and understanding about divorce as compared to people living in small towns and suburbs.
Most modern Indian women view divorce in the context of their circumstances. For example, if the woman is financially liberated and has a strong sense of individuality hen she will probably view divorce as a precursor to a better life.
However, in case, the woman lives in an environment where divorce is still regarded as a taboo and she is not financially independent, divorce automatically becomes the last resort to escape her personal misery and worth the trauma of dealing with the stigma associated with a divorced woman.
Times have changed and so have marriages. People are now choosing their partners and are taking action if they are unhappy with its outcome. Yes, they can still remarry after having a divorce. At least, that is what I think can happen in the urban areas. Things are different in the rural areas, where honour, pride, and respect matter above everything else.
In spite of the changing attitude towards divorce, most divorced women are subjected to unwanted male attention as they are automatically regarded as “free spirited “ and “willing sexual partners”. There is still an underlying assumption that if a woman is divorced she has a flaw in her character. Married women tend to stay away from divorced women categorising the later as potential threats to their marriage.
Click here to read what men should know before marrying a divorced woman.
Legal and financial position of women after divorce
The Marriage Law Amendment Bill 2010 was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha in August 2010 and the Government is still considering the amendment of marriage laws in India. Currently the clause of “irretrievable differences “is not considered to be sufficient grounds for divorce in India.
Check out this interesting debate on the pros and cons of strengthening divorce laws in India to support women going through a divorce.
Women often end up with a bad bargain when they go through a divorce in India. A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of India granted a divorce to a man on the basis that his wife refused to stay with her husband and in-laws after marriage!
Women are also short-changed from a financial perspective when they go through a divorce. Presently, the maintenance amount (varying between 2% to 10% of the husband’s income) is only granted by the court after production of the necessary documentation from women. In many cases, the woman does not have access to such documents.
According to New York Times, “In India, where tax authorities estimate just 3 percent of the population pays personal income tax, and “black money” or under-the-table cash is common, the man’s actual earnings are often hidden. Additionally, the wife may not have access to documents that prove what her husband earns.”
Until the time suitable amendments are made in the legal system, divorce continues to be a raw deal in the financial sense for the Indian woman.
Indian men and divorce – Culprits or Victims?
For the modern Indian man, divorce is no longer weighed down with so many negative repercussions as it was even 5 years back. Most Indian men are now more readily convinced to divorce their partner on grounds like “emotional mismatch”, “lifestyle differences” and “differing aspirations”.
Soumik Pal, a 35-year-old Mumbai surgeon, met his wife, a Tamilian and also a doctor when they were in medical college. They married after a short courtship. But soon, Pal realised it was impossible to live with an “extremely domineering” woman. He felt she always wanted him to do things her way. Adding fuel to the fire were the many cultural differences, likes and dislikes in food and so on. The last straw was when Pal realised her family in Pondicherry wanted them to settle there. In three months, he decided to end the marriage and be on his own.
Men in India are now increasingly leading lives outside the restrictive framework of the joint family unit thus making the dissolution of the marriage an easier step.
Considering the fact that India does not have a uniform civil code, different communities treat divorce based on religious and cultural grounds.
The Hindu personal law allows divorce petitions if the couple has been living separately for one year while the Christian personal law requires at least two years of separation.
Intercaste marriages that head for a divorce also face significant complications for men (as well as women).
However, the power equation in divorce is not always in favour of men in India. There is a growing clutch of divorce cases where women and their families are misusing laws meant to protect women from domestic abuse and fraud.
An article titled “How the Indian women misuse the law for divorce“, published in the DailyO.in, talks about numerous instances when women or their families used section 498-A to benefit from a divorce by hook or by crook.
A total of 63,343 married men committed suicide in 2012, with a fair amount of them having faced domestic problems,” says Amit Gupta of Hridaya, a men’s rights organisation.
“It is the middle class that bear the brunt of this draconian law,” says men’s rights activist Deepika Bhardwaj. “A hard-working middle-class family needs to cough up huge sums of money to save face in their society while the rich want the matter to die quickly and settle for the sum asked. This could be in crores.”
Nor surprisingly, there are a growing number of men joining self-help groups or seeking support from men’s rights advocates to navigate the complex web of divorce laws and their interpretation in the Indian context.
When it comes to divorced men attempting to re-marry, discreet and overt inquiries are made about the man’s character. While Indian society is more forgiving towards a divorced man (when compared to a divorced woman), the issue of remarriage sometimes poses a problem as the prospective bride’s family tries to delve deep into marital past of the man.
Things to consider before heading for a divorce
Divorce disrupts the basic fabric of life and there are far too many couples in India who try to rush into the process only to find that it’s not that easy for anybody. In reality, there are many things that should be carefully considered before the decision to divorce is taken.
1. Divorce (both for the man as well as the woman) changes the socio-cultural setup. There is a change in the way the society views a divorcee and many common friends take sides with one or the other partner. A person might suddenly find friends/ relatives turning hostile after the divorce.
2. There are many workplaces that still subtly discriminate against divorcees and treat them as sources of speculation. In some conservative workplaces like schools, the discrimination becomes overt while in other cases disapproval is expressed through social exclusion and malicious gossip.
3. A person who is about to file for divorce should carefully consider whether he/she is mentally prepared for the emotional repercussions of staying alone and dealing with feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
4. Financial assets (if shared) will also have to be separated legally. If the divorce is not amicable there is a bitter tussle about who owns the assets and the division ratio. If most assets are in the man’s name the woman is left high and dry.
5. Divorce involves long and tiresome paperwork involved. Even if a lawyer handles the majority of paperwork, a lot of time is required in reading and signing documents, forms, and countless other notices.
6. Divorce still represents a social stigma as it goes against the Indian traditional belief that “marriages are forever”. Partners are questioned about the logic or validity of the divorce by friends, family, and colleagues.
7. Joint insurance plans, health insurance schemes cannot be owned jointly anymore and the estranged couple has to dissolve all such plans. This involves a lot of time and effort and often there is a loss of benefits.
8. Divorce especially a non-mutual one is an expensive option in India. Both partners have to shell out a huge amount of money for the lawyer’s fees.
9. The divorce case might drag on for years leading to emotional and physical exhaustion.
10. The most sensitive issue for would-be divorcees is their kids who are badly affected by the divorce. It is very important to counsel kids before and after the divorce so that they are able to come to terms with the painful transition in their lives.
Can mutual separation be another alternative?
Most people suffer from the wrong notion that divorce and separation are the same while in essence, they are not. While divorce ends a marriage completely, a mutual separation will give both parties time to think and cool off before they reach a decision as to whether or not the marriage should be continued.
A Trial Separation Clause gives couples an opportunity to reconcile their differences. The court fixes a time period between 2 weeks to 2 months for a trial separation.
A Living Apart Clause enables couples to reside separately for a fixed amount of time. This happens when the couple has decided not to co-habit.
A Permanent Separation happens when the couple wants to live separately but maintain all joint property and assets. Couples can still maintain same bank accounts and insurance plans under this clause.
A legal separation is almost like a divorce as property and asset division happens. The only difference between legal separation and divorce is that divorce is necessary before remarriage.
There are many benefits that come with legal separation as social and health insurance benefits can still be accessed by a separated spouse. The separation mode gives couples a chance to still revive the marriage. In any case, apart from cases of intolerable mental and physical cruelty, separation is probably a better alternative to divorce.
Indian law is yet to catch up with the reality of divorce
The Indian legal system till date remains anti-divorce. It is significantly more difficult to obtain a divorce in India as compared to western nations like USA, UK, and Australia.
Only a few reasons such as impotence, chronic degenerative disease, mental/ physical torture, abandonment can be considered as legal grounds for divorce in India.The legal system has not evolved as swiftly as the socio-cultural fabric which is why many couples have to fight a long and bitter battle to obtain a divorce.
The recent changes in the divorce laws include the introduction of the Marriage Laws Act as well as the 2010 Amendment Bill that seeks to make the much-needed changes in the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act. The inclusion of the clause of irretrievable breakdown is one major change that is likely to take place soon.
Changes need to be made to the divorce laws to ensure that the number of false dowry and torture cases registered under the protection of women from domestic violence is reduced. It has come to light that many partners use these clauses to pressurise the other party into divorce and then claim alimony.
The laws pertaining to divorce in India do not reflect the realities of modern life and are in severe need of amendment and change. Many lawyers use the legal loopholes to extract huge sums of money from the harassed couple.
Divorce in India – Our verdict
The Indian society has evolved a lot in the last decade. The perspective towards divorce in India varies drastically across all classes of society, all economic strata, and all geographical locations.
In the metro cities, perspectives towards divorce have changed but the vast majority of small towns and suburbs still maintain a rigid viewpoint and consider divorce to be unacceptable.
The general consensus of the society is still to question “who wronged whom” making the divorce a battle between right (the partner who didn’t initiate the divorce) and wrong (the partner who filed for divorce).
In many matrimonial advertisements, it is seen that the prefix “innocent” is added before the word ‘divorcee’ so as to claim that the divorce was not initiated by that person and she was simply the “victim” of a bad marriage. You can read more about this trend here.
As a rule, it can be said that though divorce has now become a far more familiar word than before the Indian society is still struggling to take the word in its right spirit.
The general concept of a divorce happening because two people have irreconcilable differences is not accepted. Instead, divorce is construed to be some kind of moral battle. This perspective is responsible for the prolonged emotional trauma that people undergoing divorce in India still have to face.