Women in our society are often shamed for seeking alimony. They are considered lucky to have a law that allows them to seek alimony after divorce. It is because of this legal provision that women are often called gold diggers for marrying rich husbands. While seeking alimony is a women’s right, did you know that it is a man’s right too? Did you know that men too can seek alimony because the Maintainance Act is gender neutral?
The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court recently ruled that Sections 24 and 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 are gender neutral. The sections deal with the maintenance right of a partner after divorce and do not specify a gender to define the word “partner” here.
After coming across this judgment, I smirked and thought that yet again society has been proven guilty of shaming women based on their prejudices. When the law of maintenance was never about women alone, then why are women alone shamed for seeking alimony? Why didn’t society encourage men to know their rights and claim them instead?
Alimony for men: We need to talk about it more
It is not normal in our society for men to seek maintenance from their wives. On the other hand, it is common for women to seek alimony from their husbands. The reasons behind this are the same ones that keep men from living off their wives’ salaries- male ego and social stigma. Men in our society are fed with toxic ideas of masculinity in which they are told that earning money is a man’s job and sitting at home and rearing a family is a woman’s job. And so many men refrain from asking for monetary help from their female partners- be it in marriage or in case of separation. But is it fair to not let men claim their rights? Is it fair to ask men to give up their rights just to protect the fragile and fake idea of masculinity?
Suggested Reading: The Problematic Culture Of Calling Women Gold Diggers
It is not true that women are always entitled to an alimony in case of a divorce. In 2008, Delhi High Court ruled that if a wife is able to earn enough money to support herself post-divorce, the right to alimony stands cancelled.
“Where a wife has no income or is without any support for maintaining herself, the court has to pass an order considering the income and living status of the husband. However, where the wife and husband both are earning and having a good salary, an order is not required,” said Justice S.N Dhingra
Similarly, law has protected rights of dependent men and granted them alimony. In a recent case from Maharashtra, a woman who is a school teacher has been asked to pay maintenance to her ex-husband of 3,000 rupees every month by Bombay HC Aurangabad Bench. The separated husband claimed that he gave up his dreams to help his ex-wife earn degrees. He toiled at home and took care of housework so that his ex-wife could earn MA and BEd degrees which enabled her to secure a job.
So yes, it is not just women who can use alimony to empower themselves. Men too have the right to do so. It is just that the mentality of society is so dented that it is not ready to believe in what the law says. And this is the reason why our country is run by social norms more than by law.
But it is high time now that men reclaim their rights and stop conforming to social norms of masculinity blindly. If it is okay for a woman who earns less or doesn’t earn at all to demand alimony to survive happily on her own, a man too can do this provided he earns less than his wife. Money or a job doesn’t see gender. It can be possessed by anyone and can leave anyone devoid of it. Moreover, women too need to stop exploiting their ex-husbands by denying to pay any alimony. They need to refrain from using the right to alimony against them. Alimony is for both men and women. Please accept it and provide them with their rights.
Views expressed are the author’s own.