Should We Be Proud Of Low Divorce Rates In India?

We live in a society where divorce is considered taboo, it's seen as a "Western idea" that breaks families and is considered a move that shows the weakness of a person who cannot take the responsibilities of marriage.

Rudrani Gupta
New Update
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When my mother said that "one or two slaps are normal in marriages," I understood the reason behind the so-called successful marriages in India. Just like my mother, many women believe that if a husband loves you and takes care of you, he has the right to slap you. Maybe not all women believe in this. Some women might have never been abused by their husbands or in-laws. While others might not consider mental or emotional abuse as wrong. But I have a question for all women - do you consider divorce as an option or a right? 


We live in a society where divorce is considered taboo, it's seen as a "Western idea" that breaks families and is considered a move that shows the weakness of a person who cannot take the responsibilities of marriage. Once married, couples are expected to live together and manage the marriage throughout their life. Mostly, the responsibility of keeping a marriage alive lies on the woman. She is expected to make many compromises and adjustments to survive in a marriage. However, sometimes, men too adjust to a toxic marriage even though seeking divorce is much easier for men than for women. 

The basic reasons for keeping a marriage alive are securing children's future, avoiding social criticism, dependency on financial and social support, family pressure and more. And then, society proudly says that India has the lowest divorce rate in the world. But is that true?

Let's dig into the statistics. According to the World of Statistics, which released a report on divorce rates across the world in May 2023, the divorce rate in India is one percent. India has the lowest divorce rate in the entire world. Either society is blind to the reality or the reality doesn't have the power to bust the bubble of society. 

The low divorce rates in India



According to another study, India saw 13 divorces over 1000 marriages in the year 2019. Reportedly, there has been a 350 per cent increase in divorce rates in India over the last two decades. A  report by TOI in 2023 stated that Maharashtra has the highest divorce rate with 18.7 per cent. While Kerala has the lowest divorce rate with 6.3 per cent. However, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), in the year 2022, only 0.3 per cent of men and women identified as divorced. Mizoram had the highest divorce rate with 3.8 per cent and Bihar had the lowest with 0.05 per cent. 

Clearly, India's divorce rates are very low despite seeing a rise in recent years. But does this mean that couples in India are better at maintaining their marriages than those in other countries? Does a low divorce rate indicate that India has happy marriages? Or is there a loophole? 

The rate of domestic violence in India

Let's again focus on the statistics. According to NFHS-5 data, between the years 2019 to 2021, nearly 30 per cent of women between the ages 18 and 49 have faced domestic/sexual violence. 3.1 per cent of pregnant women have faced physical violence during their pregnancy. This report is only about the cases that have been reported. The data reveals that 87 per cent of married women never seek help for marital violence. 

However, according to the National Commission of Women, the complaints of domestic violence which increased in the pandemic times decreased in the year 2023. As per the NCW, out of 28,811 complaints about crimes against women reported in 2023, 6,304 were related to domestic violence. However, according to the latest data by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), most of the crimes against women registered were characterised as cruelty by the husband or his relatives (31.4 per cent).

Why are women silent about domestic violence?


The data clearly shows that women in India are suffering in their marriages. They are bearing abuse by their husbands and in-laws without complaining about it. Some women might reach out for help, but most women normalise it as the wear and tear of marriage. In fact, every second day, we see reports of men killing their wives for trivial reasons. Some kill their wives for not serving tea on time, and some kill them for not making the food of their choice while others kill their wives for not meeting the dowry demands. 

The tedious process of seeking divorce in India

Many women do not have financial independence and parental support which is essential if they want to walk out of abusive marriages. Yes, alimony and maintenance entrust women. However, to reach that stage, a woman has to speak up which is the basic right denied to most. Moreover, it is not easy to seek a divorce in India. 

Nidhi Kumar, a Practising Advocate at the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court told SheThePeople that mutual divorce takes a minimum of six months to one year. The court itself gives the couple time to stay together and rethink for six months. If they still do not want to live together, they can easily get divorced. However, a contested divorce can take years. 

Advocate Kumar further said that the cost of the trial, in case a wife files for a contested divorce, will be paid by the husband under litigation amount which currently is Rs 11,000. The woman contesting for divorce can legally stay at her marital house or paternal house. However, she can also rent a house whose rent will be paid by her husband. 

Despite this, Kumar said that the divorce rates are low in India because marriages are considered as "sacraments". It doesn't involve two people but two families. The court itself tries to convince the couples to not seek divorce. Moreover, the technical process of seeking divorce, especially contested divorce, itself is very tedious. 


The demand for evidence and documents to support the divorce plea is another struggle because not all crimes that happen within walls can be proven. 

If a woman is financially and socially unstable and her parents are also not ready to support her, how will she manage to go through all this on her own? Even though the law asks the husbands to pay for the trials, what is the guarantee that he will? How many people in our society follow laws? If they did, dowry or domestic violence wouldn't be increasing every year. 

The rise of adultery in India

Lastly, when couples have to stay together despite the broken relationship, they resort to another way of maintaining the broken marriage whilst being satisfied. Do you know what I am talking about? Adultery. Astonishingly, the rate of adultery or spouse cheating has seen a significant increase. As of 2020, 55 per cent of Indians have been unfaithful to their partners and 56 per cent of them are women. 

Indian marriages are not only marred by domestic violence and lack of freedom, agency and independence of women but also by adultery. 

Should we be happy that the divorce rate in India is so low?

Should we celebrate that couples are maintaining their marriages despite the problems they face? Or should we focus on the plight of women who make most of the compromises and adjustments in marriage? 

Divorce does break families and the worst brunt of it is born by children. However, not seeking divorce because of social stigma, bearing injustice till the last breath and maintaining the marriage just for children who do not benefit from witnessing the abusive relationship of their parents is not right. Divorce might be a family breaker but it is also a legal right to break the shackles and seek freedom. However, the problem is society's definition of divorce which varies with gender - for men it is freedom, for women it is shame. Society is just going to dictate and say things that don't even make sense. Dear couples, stop listening to society and start prioritising your needs.   

Views expressed are the author's own


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