New Law on Divorce Offers Hope to the Less Empowered Women
Globalisation, technology and a general rise in the standard of living of people in India – especially among women – has seen lot of changes. Women are no longer confined to kitchens and babysitting, they have opted for careers in corporates, politics, journalism and in many other places, earlier, restricted for men. However, the changing stride is limited only for the urban women who have access to better education and whose prospects of “employability” are very high.
Contrary to this in rural areas or in places where education is still low, women are still at the hands of their In-laws and their better halves. Now, with women empowerment and many schemes sponsored by the state and central government, women have a better opportunity to become financially stable and carve their own careers. While these changes have definitely benefited women at large, the “financially secure” have many choices and cannot tolerate harassment from her family. Result: Divorces have risen dramatically, women are seeking separation from their husbands who do not respect their feelings, do not complement their attitude and other personal reasons. Ego, is another major factor. Although, there are no national statistics on divorce, some local statistics still say the rate of divorce is very high
However, the divorced woman in this case may seek alimony or may not seek alimony or even she seeks could be a negligible amount. But, the fate of women who seek divorce and doesn’t have a supporting job or financially “dependable” is highly deplorable. A study entitled “The Economic Rights & Entitlements of Separated and Divorced Women in India”, conducted by a team of researchers, women right activities and lawyers, surveyed 405 Indian women who were divorced, separated or deserted by their families. These women were randomly selected from various parts in India. Most women surveyed “did not want a divorce even if they have faced violence in their marital homes as they felt they were financially and socially insecure outside the marriage” the study said. The study also said that in 60 percent of the cases, women claimed that marriage affected their career opportunities, because they could not work after marriage or were able to work in a limited capacity. In about 85 percent of the cases, separated women “bear the burden of looking after their children single handed”
The end of a nightmare marriage does not end here for the distressed woman, as the Indian laws earlier (now amended) had clearly ruled out any property from her husband. The assets would remain with the person who holds the title; another stumbling block was the distressed women could not fight legally – owing to her low financial status. And another huge obstacle was the alimony (maintenance amount) hardly sufficed her financial needs and her children’s education.
Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill
To end this injustice to women, the central government in August-2013, allowed an amendment through a bill tabled in the Parliament and approved by both the houses. The bill approved a proposal to make divorce friendly for women and providing the wife a share in the husband’s immovable property after “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage. The Marriage Law (Amendments) bill seeks to empower the courts to decide on the quantum of compensation from the husband’s inherited and inheritable properties for the wife and children once the marriage legally ends. Cutting across party lines, the MP’s voted unanimously for an amendment in Hindu Marriage Act 1955, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
The amendment will benefit thousands of women – who seek alimony and are given “mediocre” maintenance by the deciding courts. However, there is an urgent across the country to establish a free legal helpline, at the Taluk level, if possible, so that every woman can get free legal aid and counselling. The need of the hour is to make Indian women protected against failed marriages and financially secure in the event of a legal separation.
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