Empowered by education and employment, the new-age woman does not put up with a bad marriage. Reason why there are more women than men seeking a divorce, discovers HEMA VIJAY
People breathless and jostling for space — the scene at a family court depresses, and the court seems like a place no one might want to go to. But, people do — last year, over 4,000 cases were filed for divorce in the city. Sadly, people will continue to go — divorce rates are going up. So much so, additional family courts for the city are being considered.
Earlier, it was mostly men who sought divorce. But today, there are more women than men filing for divorce. The National Family Health Survey found Mumbai women at the top in seeking a divorce, while Chennai women stood second, among the four metros. “I think 70 per cent of the divorce cases are filed by women,” says V. Balasubramanian, an advocate. However, advocate Sheila Jayaprakash puts the percentage at a little over 50. “The transition has been happening gradually over the last decade,” says Sheila.
And, the increase in the numbers tells us a tale of change. Though the reasons for seeking a divorce are aplenty — lack of tolerance and adjustments, mental and physical torture, priority to family over spouse, domestic and work pressure, husbands unable to come to terms with their new-age wife's independence and professional success — but, the facilitating factors have been education and employment. “Because of their economic emancipation, women, who had earlier put up with a bad marriage, now take the divorce route,” says Vijay Nagaswami, psychiatrist and author of The Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy.
Besides, more awareness about the impact of mental and physical cruelty on women has helped many a parent accept that the daughter need not put up with the marriage anymore. In the smaller cities, however, the number of divorce cases remains low, making us wonder if this is a metro phenomenon. Apparently, the social taboo associated with divorces still holds strong in these areas.
As for the cases filed, they range from those coming after three months of marriage to those after 45 years. “A big slice of the cases comes from marriage in the first or second year, while another big slice comes from marriages 10 to 15 years old,” says Sheila. “Last year, a 60-year-old woman approached me for filing a divorce. She told me she had waited for her daughter's marriage,” says Balasubramanian.
Interestingly, while so many cases get filed, a huge number of cases does not get settled by court order. The trials take a minimum of three to four years to get resolved, and in the meantime, both the parties get tired of the tedious hearings. Add to it the depressing, long-drawn court proceedings that often stretch through the day, and the many postponements as the other party is absent. Of course, there's the counselling offered by the court as part of the procedure. But as Sheila puts it, it is definitely unsatisfactory and does not follow scientific methods.
So, what happens is out-of-court settlements or even patch-ups!