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Marriages Are Made in Heaven But Broken in Court

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By Vaidehi Sachin:

Bombay High Court’s verdict on divorce “not cooking, refusing sex, folding clothes cannot be grounds for divorce”, has given siege of relief for those girls who were undergoing such pressure. The Bombay High Court has held that refusal by a wife to conceive a child because of the family’s financial instability could not be used as a ground for divorce by her husband. Also, not knowing how to cook, not being religious, not parting with salary and not folding clothes properly, not been able to mix with family or not been able to fulfill house hold duties could not be treated as grounds for divorce, ruled Justice P B Majmudar and Justice Anoop Mohta.

The bench was, hearing an appeal filed by a 30-year-old man against a family court’s order which had dismissed his divorce plea. The husband, Ramesh Shenoy, contended that he was subjected to cruelty by his wife, Preeti, as she had refused sex during their honeymoon till he used a condom. He also said that he is being deprived of physical relations since two years by his wife and on other grounds cited of cruelty for divorce which both the family court and the high court did not approve of. The judges held that refusing to conceive a child on the grounds of financial instability and medical ground does not amount to cruelty. If wife has tried giving birth to their child but got into medical illness, no one can force her or divorce her on these grounds.

Nowadays, marriage has become biggest gamble in human life. You never know when and how this relation sours and ends. This very traditional social institution is at dilapidated stage. Couples in urban areas split up more often than you might think. There are many reasons why they split, one is that the couple usually waits far too long to seek help, long after arguments have gotten out of hand and the dyad has drifted in directions that can’t be saved. Unfortunately, couples often arrive for remedy (or an escape route) with some knowledge that the relationship is either hanging by a thread or even that one or both members is seeking a sort of permission to dissolve the connection. In this case a good therapist helps the couple to acknowledge that separation is the best course of action and that it can be done somewhat amicably and respectfully. Some might view this as a controversial take on marital therapy, especially Christian counsellors, but the reality is it’s unethical to try to force a square peg into a round hole. If people are miserable together, the shrink’s position is to help them separate and live happier lives apart.

The couple’s recent division make me to think over why marriages so often don’t work? Depending on where you get your numbers, one in two new marriages ultimately end up in divorce. Statistics are dubious entities and this number can vary wildly depending on source, but even as a simple approximation, a 50 per cent divorce rate is a scary proposition. There is some fluctuation in this number depending on certain demographics, for instance, a lower divorce rate is seen in those who are college-educated, as well as those who wait until they are over age 30 before getting married. If you marry in your teens or early 20’s, your risk of the relationship dissolving goes through the roof. You won’t be the same person in five, ten, or twenty years. Your goals, ideals, perspectives and interests all can change as you evolve. However, as you move along your adulthood as an ever-changing being, your spouse is doing the same thing. Two people who marry at 25 won’t be the same people at 35 or 45, so your compatibility over the lifespan requires that you both evolve in mutually beneficial ways. Couples need to realise that they will both change and have to strive for changes that allow them to remain connected in a viable way.

Coming back to Shenoy’s case, his wife denied being a mother unless there was a financial stability or health issue further. Perhaps, she wanted to give the child a better life. It is a mutual decision and a husband cannot insist. The bench was also of the view that “not folding clothes properly or not being religious and knowing how to cook, not respecting parents, not partying with family” could not be grounds for divorce as these did not amount to cruelty. The appellant’s lawyer said that Shenoy needed a working wife who would live in a joint family and do household work.

Justice Majmudar remarked, “A wife is not a slave. She is considered as ardhangini (man’s better half). Her right of freedom of speech cannot be taken away.” The judge said that if he construed the grounds cited by the appellant as cruelty, then no marriage would be safe by observing that the husband’s family was conservative and was always seeking perfection. It was heartfelt statement when Justice Majmudar said that “Preeti should not have married into this family. The girls are still treated as a burden on the parents. The girl should know as to which family she is getting into.” The parents of both the prospective groom and bride must ensure that the couple is a match for each other.
We might say we are heading towards 21st century, but shame on the whole society, what kind of values we are giving to our future generation? Women are treated like slaves; I fully appreciate the high court judgement.

Where is the equation of equality now? Isn’t it a responsibility of both, the husband and wife to run the family together? If not financially, he could have at least supported her by being by her side! Regardless of judgement, if both don’t like each other, can they live good life? Both should understand each other and adjust for one another and live, if you can’t adjust for spouse, then life is not going to be good for both of you. But, if one would think that being a man, he is superior and its duty of a girl to go through every challenge of daily life, then there is some problem!

Finally someone has got justice in India. For ages, woman was treated like a birth machine to produce children for man. It’s not about getting or not getting divorce. It’s just that nobody can be forced to do something they don’t want to do. I hope her husband and his family realise this. Well done all the judges! The judgement cannot be faulty. To accept the alleged grounds as coming under ‘cruelty’ would have been farfetched. But, it is a sad fact that this marriage is as good as dead, irrespective of the judgement. When the husband and wife confront each other as adversaries in a court, can their marriage survive? Another round of battle can be expected sooner or after for ending the tie from one party or other.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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