Data Decodes How Most Women Get Pushed Into Opting For Divorce

Data revealed by the National Family Health Survey-5 showed how a greater majority of divorced or separated women in India have endured physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from their ex-husband than women who are currently married.

Kalyani Ganesan
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The decision to end a marriage is one of the most difficult decisions a person has to make. Women, especially, are pushed to hold on to even the most irretrievable marriages by society. Additionally, the social stigma associated with divorce makes it extremely hard for women to walk out of an unhappy or toxic marriage. Despite the social stigma, what is pushing women to file for divorce?

It's common knowledge that India is the country with the least number of divorces, at just 1.1%. This is a fact that we ought to be ashamed of because we are a country that has stigmatised divorce and glorified toxic marriages. Most often, society blames, shames, and judges women for their divorce because, traditionally, Indian women are taught to make the relationship work, even at the cost of their well-being.

Why Women Get Divorced

Women who dare to defy this social standard are deemed arrogant, characterless, family-breakers, selfish, egoistic, a dishonour to the family, etc. Economist Suraj Jacob and anthropologist Sreeparna Chattopadhyay examined India’s census in 2016 and found that the number of women who are divorced or separated is higher than that of men. If more women are doing something that’s perceived to be a "sin" in our country, shouldn’t there be some substantial reason for it?

A recent article by The Hindu based on the National Family Health Survey-5 revealed that a greater majority of divorced or separated women in India had endured physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from their ex-husband than women who are currently married. The study revealed that 46.4% of divorced or separated women have faced domestic violence from their ex-husband, while 31% of currently married women are experiencing marital violence from their partner.

Another reason that pushes women to call it quits is the control their husbands have over their lives. 26.9% of divorced or separated women were "controlled" by their husbands as compared to 20.5% of currently married women. Husbands accused their wives of being unfaithful, raised suspicions when wives interacted with other men, prohibited them from socialising with their female friends, tried to isolate them from their maternal family, didn’t include them in financial decisions, and insisted on always knowing their whereabouts at all times.

If marriage means that women will have to give up their agency over their lives, how can women be expected to stay imprisoned in that relationship?


Financial independence is a huge factor that empowers women to decide their lives. The study found that 49.1% of divorced and separated women were employed, while only 25.7% of currently married women were employed. This meant that women who are not employed are more likely to be financially dependent on their partners, so even if they were in an unhappy or toxic marriage, they would lack the financial resources to walk out. After being divorced or separated from their husbands, women are free to rebuild a life for themselves by pursuing a career and becoming financially independent.

The study also revealed that 7.2% of divorced and separated women revealed having endured domestic violence during pregnancy, as opposed to 2.9% of currently married women. Pregnancy is a time when a woman needs love and support from people around her. So women can never get over anyone, especially their husbands, for inflicting violence upon them when they were pregnant. Considering that women literally risk their lives to bring another life to earth, hurting pregnant women is something inhumane and unforgivable. That reflects the lack of apathy and disrespect men have, and there’s no use in holding on to such a marriage.

Women were also denied freedom of movement, meaning that 68.8% of divorced and widowed women said that they were "not allowed" to go to the market, a health facility, or the village or community, while 43.6% of currently married women said the same. What is a relationship that holds a woman hostage inside four walls without even "allowing" her to visit public places? What entitles men to control their wife's movements? Why should women stay in such a "prison?"

The majority of divorced and separated women, i.e., 87.6%, had access to their personal bank account, and 72.8% were truly financially independent as they had the autonomy to decide how to use their money. However, only 79.9% of currently married women had a personal bank account, and only 53.6% were financially independent.

Women do know that life isn’t going to be a bed of roses when they decide to get divorced. They are aware of the social, cultural, financial, and legal challenges that our society subjects divorced or separated women to. Yet, if they have decided to take the plunge, it evidently means that they are seeking divorce as a last resort. No woman wants to go through the agony of divorce proceedings and social stigma simply over petty fights, ego, or selfish reasons. It’s high time society realised that and supported women in their choices.

Suggested Reading: Why I Welcome SC’s Decision To Waive Six-Month Waiting Period For Divorce

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