Unhappily Ever After: The Cost Indian Women Pay For Our ‘Lowest Divorce Rate’

Posted: February 7, 2019
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India has the lowest divorce rate in the world, and its ‘culture’ is proudly cited to be the reason. But is that really a good thing? What does this do to the couples in these marriages?

When I was studying in the United States in the eighth grade, there were was one other Indian girl in my class. I had just moved  from India. I was no less patriotic than Shri Manoj Kumar. Always ready to sing, ‘Mere desh ki dharti sona ugale ugale heere moti’. The other girl on the other hand was born there. She hated to be associated with India. Or me.

During one of the discussions, the teacher was talking about marriages across the world.

“Some people are forced to get married. In countries like India. It is called arranged marriage”, she said.

She looked at me and the other girl to offer valuable insights on the topic. The other girl agreed with her. She said it’s a sad state of affairs there. I told her that arranged marriages are not necessarily ‘forced’ marriages and many people live happily ever after.

After the class, the other girl told me that I do not belong in the current generation. I am ancient. I thought for a moment for an equally insulting response.

At least we do not have such a high divorce rate!’ I said with a sense of triumph.

Ahh!! So naïve I was at that age. Forgive me. I was 13.

Guess the percentage of divorce rate in India!

According to a recent study, India has the lowest divorce rate in the world.

The countries with the highest divorce rates are Luxembourg, Spain, France, Russia and United States. Countries  with the lowest divorce rates are Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, with India topping the chart at 1 percent!!

Let us explore why.

Big Fat Wedding

“Indian weddings, no matter the religion, take months of pre-marital rituals and a lot more days before the actual wedding.” –  Unified Lawyers.

An old house maid of mine had sold her jewelry and her house for her daughter’s wedding! I had found it ridiculous. I kept telling her that she should put the money to better use, secure her daughter’s future (and hers). But she was adamant.

Irrespective of the socio-economic class the family belongs to, the wedding has to be a level ahead of their actual living standard. The jewelry. The functions. The photographer. The makeup. The caterers. The decoration. The grand venue. The guest list usually involves everybody the girl and boy’s parents, grandparents and siblings have ever looked at! With so much of tamasha, a spectacle of people a couple may not even know, and a humongous financial payout, it is a no brainer that a woman’s family (who mostly pays for the wedding) feels petrified at the thought of this investment going to trash or worse – doing it all over again.

Family and society pressure

Indian marriages are of course never about the boy and the girl. It is about their families. Therefore, the divorce also becomes about everybody. It is about family, honour, father’s pride, mother’s dream, grandparents’ last wish, sister’s chances in the marriage market, and neighbourhood aunty’s uncomfortable questions. I do not even know where to find the poor, unhappy couple in this. Somewhere under the dump. Lost.

Women have nowhere to go

In the movie ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, Ranveer Singh’s character tells his mother that she did not get out despite knowing about her husband’s philandering ways because she had nowhere to go. Yes, it is the harsh reality.

For Indian women, divorce may not be the best option because they would be considered as opposing the rules and tradition of the Indian society. In addition, women have to shoulder the high cost of divorce. – Unified Lawyers.

It is expensive to live in an independent establishment, as opposed to living with family where the cost gets divided. Even if women are financially independent, they may not have someone to live with (especially for mothers) due to lack of support. Staying with parents, or siblings may also end up with taunts. Women may end up feeling that if they have to be miserable either way, might as well be it with the husband!

Shaadi mein problem? Bachha kar lo!

This ill advice has caused many couples to get stuck to each other, with no way out.  India is a special country that loves to glorify parenthood as an institution of sacrifice.

When a woman with a child decides to end her marriage, she is often told that she is being selfish. She should work it out for the sake of the child, and not give in to her ‘ego’!

Abandonment – The substitute for divorce

When I was in school, a friend’s mother always came to pick her up in simple sari, but bright sindoor. The girl never talked about her father. Once I asked her about him. (Sorry again! Was too young). She told me her father was posted in Bokaro. Festivals passed. Birthdays passed. Years passed. The girl’s marriage happened. The father never showed up.

He is posted in Ranchi.

The names of the city changed.The father was never seen.

Very recently, she mustered the strength to tell me that her father had left her mother and her, when she was six. She told me they had problems from the beginning.  One day, he just left!.  They never heard from him again. The mother was soon asked to leave the house by the in-laws. They moved to her maternal grandparents house and lived there. The mother pretended to be together  because of the stigma.

This may have happened 20 years back. But sadly, this is still happening. I know men of good families who have just left their wives and disappeared to another country. They dread a divorce as it could involve alimony, child support or even a mental cruelty or dowry case depending on how they have treated their wives. When they are in another country, they are safe from police and Indian legal system. They make a fresh start in life. The wives here are stuck. Sometimes with kids. These cowards literally play with a woman’s life.

My take: Nothing to be happy about

India may have the lowest divorce rate, compared to other countries. But divorce rate in India is higher than what it used to be. We have come a long way.

Any women going through a divorce, or in the process of one, or through with one, please do not feel discouraged by reading the above. A marriage is a relationship, and not all relationships work out. It is okay to end it. If you are in an unhappy relationship, it is okay to save yourself at the cost of the relationship.

A low divorce does not necessarily reflect a happy couple. It reflects lack of choice.

Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage. – Jennifer Weiner

Image source: shutterstock

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