Oh my God! Did that title make you a little uncomfortable? Is the word ‘Divorce’ making you feel that life has ended? Does this word make you feel that society is in bad shape? Our value systems are degrading? Well, read on.

A couple of weeks back, I was ‘advised,’ by a man who belongs to a ‘conservative’ and ‘traditional’ family in India. He said, “I agree to your feminism. But I request you to do something for the increasing divorce rates in our society. Our family systems are failing because of the feminism around. Feminists have created wrong notions in the minds of young girls and they are not ‘adjusting’ or ‘following our culture’.

Well, this comment did not surprise me and most feminists will agree to this comment from patriarchal people, be it, men or women. Divorce is considered as totally wrong and in most cases, the brunt of it goes to the woman. And the reason most people cite to say divorce is bad is because – “What about the kids’ future?”

Let’s look at this in detail. First, look at these statistics below.

The report titled “Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020 : Families in a Changing World” by the UN Women, highlighted that despite increasing rates of divorce, only 1.1% of women are divorced, with those in urban areas making up the largest proportion in India. Well, just as you were surprised, I am also surprised that India has the lowest divorce rate in the world. But, should we feel proud of it? The same report said that as the women’s rights have advanced over the past decades, families around the world have become a place of love and solidarity but also one where fundamental human rights violations and gender inequalities persist. Despite the high levels of inequalities and injustice meted out to women in families, our women do not seek divorce. Our women remain silent. They endure all the prejudices, abuses and what not. Why? Is it because of ‘fear of being single?’, or ‘fear of social stigma’? , or ‘lack of family support?’ or ‘lack of financial support?’ or ‘fear of affecting the children’s future?’.

Many people who watched the recent movie, ‘Thappad’ which shares the story of a girl who chose to become a ‘housewife’ but ended by getting beaten up in public and then later decides to get divorced said that “All this for one slap? Women have been suffering much and still continue in bad marriages just for their children”. Some even said that the movie was ‘promoting divorce’ for trivial matters! Well, I would say, the movie did hit hard upon the various types of patriarchy and the stigma against divorce in our society. The fight was not by one woman for one whack, but against the centuries of oppression in the name of marriage rules. Our marriage system is totally ‘one-sided’ and protects the male interests in most cases.

Women in unhappy marriages are not able to leave marriages due to the stigma and pressure of society. Often divorced women bear the brunt of Indian society. They are blamed for their failed marriage, called various names if they seek alimony or financial support and are more prone to harassment post-divorce. Court proceedings, change in documents are some of the problems women suffer while applying for the divorce. 

factors make women stay in abusive marriages. These vary from social to economic to psychological factors. For instance- girls grow up in households where abuse is normalized. Women bear abuse by their fathers and brothers for years and grow up thinking it as normal. The entire culture of obedience and surveillance normalizes abuse at the domestic level. Women are more likely to be killed while leaving an abusive relationship than in being in that relationship. Lack of financial security makes women vulnerable to poverty and they couldn’t seek legal help without financial resources either. Many families refuse to keep their daughters with them if they choose to leave their husbands. Most importantly, The legal process is not only painstakingly long and slow, but it is also shielded by an impenetrable wall of judges who subscribe as much to the “log kya kahenge” (what will others think?) school of thought. We have seen family court judges advising the partners to become more “compromising and adjusting” and in some cases asking the women to be a “Pathi vratha” (an ideal wife). It is an irony that a woman who seeks divorce is already emotionally separated from her husband and whatever the judges say won’t matter to her. Especially in a country which upholds the idea of marriage between strangers (arranged marriage), is a hotbed of failed marriages due to gender inequality, and still doesn’t legally recognise marital rape.

So, for those people, the stigma of getting divorced outweighs the individual freedom or self-esteem of being in a bad marriage. But in India, divorce seems to be the last resort.

According to the Atlantic,

“More divorces are a good sign for the economy.”

Loosely, it implies that people are more financially independent, career-driven and as there is no a problematic spouse holding them back domestically,they are more productive at work.

And Indian society needs to understand that divorce is not the end of a happy marriage but an escape from a bad marriage. In the end, it results in two happy individuals rather than one miserable couple.

Coming to the question of children. Yes, it does affect the psyche of children who undergo the trauma of watching their parents fighting or suffering from emotional or physical abuse or the uncertainty of separation. These children may grow up to be fearful of forming positive relationships. However, the big question remains: “Do you want to give a happy environment in the family or do you want to give an unsafe / unequal / traumatic family environment?”. As an empowered woman, I would choose the first over the second. The same is applicable for any empowered woman. However, the issue remains – ‘How many women in our society are really empowered to move to this decision?’

Some of the recommendations put forth by the earlier said UN report includes amending and reforming family laws to ensure that women can choose whether, when and whom to marry; that provides the possibility of divorce if needed, and enable women’s access to family resources.

Alright, now, my answer to the question which my male friend asked me to do: to do something for reducing the divorce rate in society. I replied, “Unfortunately I am sorry, I cannot do that. Because when we work towards gender equality and women empowerment, it is very natural that women do get awareness about their rights and also about the different hidden patriarchal inequalities in the form of marriage,so they do break it up. So, our divorce rates may increase in the coming years. I would consider it as an achievement if we have more divorces leading to more ‘happy, productive and empowered women’ than a whole lot of frustrated and unproductive women! The man who advised me would have thought, “Here is another feminist, spoiling the societal values!”

And one thing I have decided to do with such people is to say “Let’s divorce” !

Yes, it is time to divorce all that unnecessary b*** s*** rules of the society which has been preventing a woman from flourishing.

It is time to divorce all the patriarchal notions and unwritten rules which stigmatises the choice of being single.

It is time to divorce all the legal/ religious system which denies a woman from deciding who she wants to marry or live with.

It is time to divorce all those forces that consider a woman lesser!

Yes, It is time to divorce the stigma against divorce!

Cheers to Divorce!

#CeeVee

#CeeVee is the brand name of Dr. Chandra Vadhana.

Dr. Chandra Vadhan

Founder and Chief Mentor,

Prayaana Labs

connectceevee@gmail.com

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