Friday, March 8, 2024

Trapped in Loveless Marriage!

‘’Marriages are made in Heaven, suffered on Earth’’ was a sharp reaction from an affluent woman who is unable to seek divorce from her husband, and has been stuck in a loveless marriage to manage the family image in the society. 

The most common and unfair situation the women in India face irrespective of religion, caste, region, class is the dilemma of separation and divorce, while India tops the world with the lowest divorce rate of 1%, it is no measure of happy relationship, reality is that over 2.3 million women are separated or abandoned by their spouses. 

Divorced women are 5.6 out of 1000 among Muslims, 2.6 out of 1000 among Hindu women, and separated or abandoned are 6.7 out of 1000 among Muslims, and 7 out of 1000 among Hindus. Among other minorities like Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikh situation of women seeking divorce is slightly better but not to cheer either. Hence beyond doubt religion is no barrier when it comes to marital challenges for women. 

Separated or abandoned is logically the same uncertainty for women, but in there could be a financial arrangement in case of separation, to play to the galleries of the society or for the sake of the children. Stigma, financial dependency, responsibility of children, prolonged legal process continues to be reasons most women stay separated than opting for divorce. 

The patriarchal society fails to acknowledge that the emotional & physical needs of men and women are the same, even as adultery and extra marital affair of the husband is the most common reason for separation or being abandoned, it is the women who bear the brunt of a failed marriage and suffer emotional breakdowns, and they seldom seek any physical intimacy even outside of a failed marriage due to societal fear. 

‘’Divorce has a reason, it is a decision to move on, but separation is a state of uncertainty where the woman suffers emotionally, and the man is happily living with other woman, or is free to have a physical relationship with another woman, how fair life is for a woman in male dominated society, who is forced to give up her natural needs because of spouse’s infidelity?’’ asks a young mother in her late 20’s. 

The struggles of separated or abandoned women is not only emotional, financial, and social, the challenges of getting government IDs, passport, children school admission, bank loans, property disposal, access to government benefits as the legal framework does not identify separated or abandoned as specific marital status. It is indeed a trauma when women are unwilling made to negotiate the legal framework in a society that blames the woman for being separated or abandoned by the husband.  

Whether woman walks out of a marriage or the man, the terms of negotiation predominantly is tilted towards the man unless it is a legal separation in some cases. And lack of legal information, less or no access to legal aid, prolonged legal process, financial sustainability of legal process takes a toll on the women who try to seek closure of a failed relationship. 

Even as government has made some provision to seek legal aid in case of a man leaving the country abandoning the woman he was married to in India, the effort is negligible, and it does not address the condition of millions of women whose are living a life of uncertainties and social discrimination. 

In October 2023, in the case of an 89-year-old man seeking divorce from his 82-year-old wife refusing to use Article 142 to grant divorce the Supreme Court has said - "irretrievable break down of marriage” cannot be used as a straight-jacket formula to dissolve a marriage as despite increasing trend of filing divorce cases, marriage is still considered to be a pious, spiritual, and invaluable emotional life-net between the husband and the wife in the Indian society. 

Supreme Court observation in case of an older couple is not necessarily an ideal situation for younger couples who have a life ahead and are unable to make their marriage work, it is indeed denial of constitutional guarantee to continue in a broken and unhappy relationship even if marriages are considered pious. 

In the name of societal view of a marriage millions of women irrespective of religion, caste, class, and region are trapped in loveless marriage suffering emotional trauma, discrimination, social stigma, financial burden. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, known as Triple Talaq Bill, nor the Uniform Civil Code that is much in debate will change the fate of women in this country, unless the societal norms are shaken and “Separated or Abandoned’’ becomes a “Marital Status’’ for women who are unable to seek divorce for various reasons that is not in their control, but want to live a life of dignity without being trapped and suffocated in a loveless marriage for life. 

Time immortal the burden of relationship, family prestige, social compulsions has always been forced on the shoulders of a woman, a progressive nation has the moral obligation to ease that burden by bringing in more realistic laws that address the needs of the changing times. 

Kavitha ReddyActivist & KPCC General Secretary,