A recent study shows that India has the lowest rate of divorce in the world — only 13 out of 1,000 marriages in India, a mere 1 per cent, end in divorce.
So does this mean Indians are especially lucky, and get to experience the ‘happily ever after’ more often than other countries? Is this proof that the arranged marriage system is truly the best in the world?
Cheery as these possibilities are, they are far from the truth.
Marriages may be made in heaven. But they shouldn't be allowed to make one's life hell. (Photo: PTI/file)
Here are five reasons the low divorce rate is not a good thing:
1.). Women have no voice
According to a study, within India, divorce rates are the lowest in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan, where patriarchy still has a stranglehold on society, while divorces are higher in more liberal north-eastern states.
This clearly shows that divorce rates are low because even today, too many women are not in a position to speak up against their families, or support themselves financially and emotionally if they choose to walk out of oppressive marriages.
A formal divorce would mean the woman being entitled to alimony, possible custody of the children and child support, whereas our society ensures men can mistreat or ignore their wives without too many questions being asked.
2.). Sanskar over happiness
Of course, it’s not just women who suffer bad marriages. Indians are just never taught to prioritise individual happiness.
The family’s ‘reputation’, the ‘feelings’ of the entire ecosystem around us are supposed to be more important than following our heart. Thus, divorce comes with the tremendous stigma of selfishly abandoning your familial duties, and damaging your family name in the process.
The Great Indian Joint Family is often the greatest upholder of regressive traditions. (Photo: YouTube screengrab/Still: Hum Saath Saath Hain)
Of course, gender plays a role here too — the woman who couldn’t ‘keep her man happy’ is both to be pitied and censured.
Important to note here is that according to census data, more women declared themselves divorced than men, which shows that men find it much easier to remarry than women.
3.). Long legal process
There are practical difficulties too. India is among the most progressive modern democracies as far as the law on divorce is concerned — the Hindu Code Bill, passed in Parliament in the very first decade after our Independence, granted divorce and remarriage rights to men and women equally.
But great intentions are ruined by bureaucratic inefficiencies. The legal system in India is so slow and long-drawn that simply initiating the process of divorce is intimidating. The legal battle, with adjourned hearings and perennial staff crunch in courts, takes up a lot of time — and a lot of money.
4.). Morality over legality
Even if you do choose to take the legal plunge, divorces in India are not easy to come by. Judges, after all, are products of our society, and their focus is on reconciliation rather than separation. Countless women have tales to narrate of judges asking them to ‘think of their family and kids’, despite presenting evidence of cruelty and abuse.
Couples seeking divorce through mutual consent are sent for endless rounds of counselling and mediation. Even if we assume the judges are well-intentioned, they ignore what two adults want for themselves, and force them to go through a process that delays their attempts to build a new life.
The last, but perhaps the most important cause behind the longevity of Indian marriages is religion. Hinduism is the dominant religion in India, where marriage is a sacred bond that is supposed to outlive rebirths.
The pheras are supposed to last seven lifetimes. (Photo: YouTube)
The dissolution of marriage like a civil contract is a distinctly modern concept for a lot of Indians, and is gaining acceptance very slowly.
Hopefully, as more women become financially independent and societal norms relax, divorce will be freed of social stigma, and people will be able to place their happiness above a sense of false morality.