Even though the divorce rate in India is the lowest in the world, it has been increasing over the past two decades. People are trying to gain more understanding and knowledge about alimony rights to carry out a fair divorce trial. But when it comes to women, divorce and the right to alimony is often portrayed as a manipulative trick to rob husbands.
Women who demand alimony are labelled as selfish, devoid of self-respect and greedy. But is this a fair deal? Is it right to shame women for demanding alimony which is their right? Just because a woman chose to seek a divorce, does it mean she lost her morality, respect and right over the marital property?
The decision to seek divorce itself is daunting in the case of women. Women in our society are bred to make marriages last forever even if they have to undergo several tortures and tribulations within the bond. But if women choose their happiness, sanity and justice over bad marriages, they are shamed for failing in their responsibility to preserve the marriage. So a woman who seeks divorce undergoes harsher scrutiny than a man who chooses the same. Her morality is questioned, she is ripped off of her reputation and self-respect and labelled as incapable and slut. While men who choose to divorce their wives are at the receiving ends of sympathy.
Demanding alimony seen as a trick of gold-diggers
Therefore, when it comes to exercising the right of alimony, a woman is shamed and criticised more than a man is. A woman is labelled greedy and manipulative for “robbing” a man of his money. It is assumed that she married the man just for his money and seeking alimony is just a part of her gold-digging strategy. While this has been true in many cases, is it right to stereotype every woman and view their right to alimony in the wrong light? Is it right to assume that every woman who chooses to divorce her husband and demand alimony is a greedy gold-digger (which itself is a very problematic concept)?
How alimony empowers women
First of all, we need to understand that there are reasons why women have certain rights in the pages of the constitution. The right to alimony is crucial to divorce because it empowers women who do not earn to value their freedom and happiness without fearing the lack of financial support post-divorce It is undeniable fact that many women either marry before getting a job or give up their jobs post-marriage. A shocking number of 20 million women quit their job between 2005 and 2012. And around 65 per cent of them never returned to participate in the female workforce. So in such situations, alimony acts as a medium to financially empower them after being divorced. So it is just not right to shame a woman for demanding maintenance from her husband after divorce.
Men too can demand alimony
According to the Hindu Marriage Act 1965, men too can demand alimony if the wife earns more or if the man is incapable of earning his own money. 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 good salary, an order is not required,” said Justice S.N Dhingra
So the right to alimony is not completely biased towards one gender alone. Even if the right to alimony and streedhan is slightly more bent towards women, it is not right to question it because women, more than men, are susceptible to financial disempowerment- through less salary, losing a job or having no job at all. According to a study, the unemployment rate among women in India is more than double of that of men.
Stop shaming women who demand alimony
It is high time we stop shaming women who demand alimony. Seeking divorce and alimony is the basic right of a woman. She is not immoral, greedy or selfish for exercising her basic rights. Even though women have legal rights in marriage and divorce, many aren’t aware of them. Most of the women fear the scrutiny of society for choosing to divorce their husbands. While others fear the lack of financial independence post-divorce. The right to alimony in our society is not known to women as their right but as a trait of a shameless woman who wants to rob her husband and in-laws. So it is about time we encourage women to unlearn stereotypes and exercise their rights without any fear.
Views expressed are the author’s own