Indian culture hardly ever recognizes divorce as an outcome of failed marriages. For us, marriage is sacred and under no circumstances should it fall apart. However, changing times have also brought with them newer perspectives. Today, when married couples don’t get along, they part ways, and yet the divorce rate of our country is less than one percent. An informal data reveals that only 13 marriages result in divorce per 1000 marriages in India.

Why is it so? When we accept divorce or separation as a probable and natural outcome to a marriage, then why is it that divorce rate continues to be so low in our country? One of the main issues is the tedious process of getting a divorce. To bypass the struggle, most people just decide to live separately while being married on paper for years until they decide to remarry or in many cases, don’t remarry at all.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • When we accept divorce or separation after marriage as a way of life then why is it that divorce rate continues to be so low in our country?
  • We have one of the lowest divorce rates in the world, because we treat divorce as a taboo, says Vandana Shah.
  • We have a clear mandate of the ruling party today and the members must take up this issue and pass it, says matrimonial lawyer Neena Mittal.

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Our outlook on marriage is that it cannot be based on contract and that is the reason why it has taken so long to start pushing this argument of divorce forward. – Vandana Shah

Despite the law commission recommending the Centre to take “immediate action” to amend the laws with regard to “irretrievable breakdown” where a “wedlock became a deadlock” twice in 1978 and 2009 reports, the suggestion remains unfulfilled. In fact, in the case of a marriage gone kaput for over two decades, the Supreme Court recently invoked it’s inherent discretionary powers under Article 142 to do “complete justice” to declare divorce in the matter. But any court below the stature of the apex court doesn’t behold such powers. In such scenarios where estranged couples have to go through years and years of agony to put an end to their marriage, is it not, then, crucial to make ‘irretrievable breakdown’, a ground for divorce?

Divorce lawyer Vandana Shah calls it a ‘socio-legal issue’. Talking about the delay by the government in implementing irretrievable breakdown in the Section 10A of Divorce Act, 1869, she says, “There have been two recommendations to amend the law but both have gone unheeded because essentially we, as a country, take pride in family, culture and values. Legally, marriage is considered a sacred sacrament in India and that is why prenuptial agreements are not valid in India. Our outlook on marriage is that it cannot be based on contract and that is the reason why it has taken so long to start pushing this argument of divorce forward.”

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We have the lowest divorce rate in the world because we treat divorce as a taboo, says Shah, who runs a platform called Divorce Kart to smoothen the process of divorce for estranged couples. “It is just a matter of time before the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of marriage becomes a part of the law because the courts are becoming ready for it,” she notes adding that it becoming grounds for divorce will expedite the process and it will also reduce the stigma around divorce.

Another factor that impacts the whole divorce dynamic is the change in the outlook of women today as compared to a few decades ago and also the difference in perspective of women belonging to the urban belt as against women from the rural belt of the country. Matrimonial lawyer Neena Mittal underlines this impact by claiming that our entire judicial system inclined to save a marriage, but now it has shifted. “Earlier the parental home never encouraged women to take a divorce because then she would again become a burden on them, the one they got rid off earlier by getting her married. But today women know how to survive. They know that they can end the marriage and move on and the same goes for men.”

“Legally, marriage is considered a sacred sacrament in India and that is why prenuptial agreements are not valid in India. Our outlook towards marriage is that it cannot be based on contract and that is the reason why it has taken so long to start pushing this argument of divorce forward.”

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“Even today, women in the cities are taking divorce but in the villages, the same taboos persist.” Mittal further underlines the need for the government to take a stand on this. While the ruling party has always sided with the concept of the institution of marriage and how it should be saved at all cost, it is unlikely that it would pass a bill that displaces the very foundation of it. However, she says, “We have a clear mandate of the ruling party today and they must take up this issue and pass it.  It is true that the government’s perspective of it isn’t favouring divorce, but it is only because we have been narrow-minded for ages and we are a timid society. Now it is the mandate of the women in the parliament who must raise their voice on this issue.”

Picture Credit: NDTV

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