The Ever-growing ‘Grey Divorces’ in India

Posted on March 15, 2010 in Specials

Vdisha Nandi:

Figures in year 2007 had 8,000-9,000 cases registered in Delhi, followed by Mumbai and Bangalore. A 350 percent rise in Kerala, the most literate state in the country, 200 percent rise in Chennai and Kolkata, and a 150 percent rise in Punjab and Haryana. These numbers are telling about the rising divorce rates, in urban as well as rural India. Not too surprising, given the plethora of reasons in our metamorphosing society; financially independent, work-focussed women, the growing independence of children, western world influences (what with Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert acquiring classic, ‘this-book-is-written-for-me!’ status), evolving social standards, to name a few. These trends are even interpreted as indicators of a freer, more independent state of societal mind. But the frequency of hiccups can easily be compared to the frequency of ‘grey’ divorces.

The term ‘grey divorces’ is used to refer to late-life separations or those which occur after a period of 25 years or more, post marriage of the couple. Is this a sign that people who had been so far ‘trapped’ in arranged unions, and under some sort of duress, no more deem it fit to compromise? That owing to the scientific advantages of longer, healthier lives they find it most important to reclaim their lost selves, discover new roles and newer capabilities? Successfully long married couples I know pronounce thus, (the amazingly dependable aunts and mothers specially), that after having lived together, first as a couple, and then, commonly as a family, it isn’t about what you want anymore. Bigger issues are at stake, you are a father, or a mother and even if not that, the support of your partner, who has faced life with you and relies on the fact that you’ll be around. And the reason that one has their own life to live, which on account of marriage was lost somewhere among several demanding dependents, just doesn’t cut it.

Legislations relating to the issue of divorces in India fall woefully short of evolving social mores. There are different laws for governing divorce in different communities. Section 13, 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 state the permissible grounds for all Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 lays out the rules for divorce among Muslims; the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 for Christians; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 for Parsis and the Special Marriage Act of 1954 governs the etc. cases of inter-community marriages.

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The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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