Divorce rates see a spike, but help is at hand

Cheating and impotency are no longer the biggest reasons for divorce; not respecting each others parents, changed habits and ego issues take center stage

May 30, 2016 07:49 am | Updated November 17, 2021 01:46 am IST - New Delhi:

The loud sound of a slap suddenly turns everyone’s gaze in the corridor towards the estranged couple, Bhargav and Sonam.

Holding his cheek, Bhargav appears to be in disbelief while his wife seems uncertain of how to react after landing the slap.

A woman police inspector at the women’s cell in South Delhi’s Nanakpura explains: “The woman was being beaten by her husband for the last four years of their marriage. With us around today, she gathered the courage to hit him for the first time ever”.

Like dozens of other couples, Bhargav and Sonam, from Chattarpur, are here to seek divorce. “My father was falsely implicated in a criminal case and jailed, but my husband did not allow me to visit my parents. But despite him thrashing me all through our married life, it was at that moment that I actually decided to leave him,” says Sonam about her breaking point.

Around the same time, an almost similar past incident involving another couple was being narrated inside a room near where Bhargav got slapped.

A small quarrel Five years ago, Ridhima and Rahul, residents of West Delhi’s Subhash Nagar, had struggled to convince their respective parents to turn their romance into a marriage. Now, all Rahul hopes for is a quick divorce. “A small quarrel over my mother’s behaviour a year ago had resulted in her storming out of our home and going to live with her parents,” says Rahul.

Rahul’s mother succumbed to cancer within days of the quarrel. “It took Ridhima two whole days to visit me and commiserate for my loss. It will be unfair to my mother if I allow her back into my life,” says a bitter Rahul. Not once during the entire conversation did he look at his wife, who did not want a separation.

These are only a few among hundreds of such stories that accompany petitions for divorces in the city’s family courts, divorce counselling centres and mediation centres. “A large number of divorces in the city are being sought over spur-of-the-moment and in some cases over trivial issues,” says Arunima Dwivedi, an advocate-on-record in the Supreme Court.

Reasons for divorce Lawyers and mediators in the city say divorce petitions have gone up “manifold” in the Capital over the last 10 years. “More than 100 divorce applications are being filed in the city’s courts every day,” estimates Sunil Mittal, an advocate at the Delhi High Court.

Cheating and impotency are no longer the biggest reasons for couples wanting to separate. Chances of marriages surviving now mostly hinge on tolerance towards the other spouse, their parents, habits, jobs, etc.

“Women now are getting educated and independent. They don’t need their husbands to sustain their living anymore. So, they are able to stand up to mental or physical abuse and seek separation if required,” says Varsha Sharma, DCP of Delhi Police’s Special Police Unit for Women And Children (SPUWAC), where most couples seeking divorce are routed.

Independent women So, on the day 28-year-old housewife, Usha Mahananda, decided she had enough of her abusive husband, she moved to her parents’ home, took professional training in embroidery and then returned to serve him the divorce papers. “I first made sure I was in a position to take care of my two children. I am now capable of paying the Rs. 6,000 monthly house rent,” says Mahananda.

Many bide their time and collect evidence before proceeding with divorce.

“When I arrived at my husband’s home after marriage, my father-in-law put up a set of rules for me. He instructed me to mop the entire house by 6 a.m. every day. I was instructed not to seek any money for cosmetics and not use detergent for washing clothes for our family of four,” Nivedita, a housewife tells a police officer.

When Nivedita’s husband rubbishes the allegations, the woman pulls out from her handbag a list of rules, allegedly written by her father-in-law, a retired army man, before he died a year ago.

She tells her dumbstruck husband, an IT engineer, that she had feigned reconciliation all this while so that she could retrieve the list of instructions.

According to advocates, who double as mediators for these separating couples, it is mostly the love marriages that end in divorces.

They do not have the numbers to justify that, but cite their experience in dealing with such cases.

In the haze of love “Love is blind, marriage is eye-opening. Couples rush into marriages without knowing each other well. Very often, within months or weeks of their marriage they seek separation. There are couples in Delhi who have headed directly to their respective lawyers after returning from honeymoon,” says a Delhi HC advocate, who doubles as a mediator at one of the women’s cells in the city.

The advocate was mediating between a husband and wife that have been married for just over a year.

“He turned out to be a totally different man after marriage. Unlike what he had promised, he did not once help me with the household chores,” says Seema Rani, who wanted to divorce her husband within two months of their marriage, but decided to give him a few chances.

A last ditch effort The separation process takes an emotional toll on most couples.

A banker by profession, 30-year-old Geetika Sharma looks forward to every visit to SPUWAC office where professional counsellors have been probing the possibility of reconciliation between the couple.

“I love my husband a lot and the visit to SPUWAC is my only opportunity to meet him and urge him for a life like before,” says Sharma, during one such visit. During each visit, she brings her six-month-old son along in the hope that the boy will at least draw her husband Sundar Kant’s attention.

An inspector, who has been serving as a mediator for the couple in a last-ditch attempt at reconciliation, urges Kant to take his son in his arms, but he remains unmoved.

“Kaisa mard hai yeh (what kind of a man is he),” the inspector murmurs, making little attempt to conceal her disgust.

According to the inspector, Sharma had levelled false dowry allegations against Kant following a quarrel.

“She later confessed that she had lied, but he is unwilling to forgive her or continue with the marriage,” says Anuradha Chhabra, an inspector who counsels anywhere between two to four such couples everyday.

At another women’s cell office in West Delhi, 27-year-old Ritesh Chandra, a chef by profession, assists his wife Rashmi in filling up an application form for their separation.

The formalities are in the last stage, but Chandra still harbours hope of reconciliation as he places his hand on her shoulder, but to no response from her.

“He had raised his hands on her in public during their vacation in Jaipur last year. He acknowledges his mistake, but that had badly hurt her ego and she decided to dump him,” explains another police officer, who unsuccessfully tried to counsel the couple.

When it gets ugly

It is not uncommon at these centres to see women holding their husbands’ feet begging for reconciliation and men breaking down in front of their wives seeking an end to the divorce plea. But the real problem begins when the counselling for reconciliation is deemed unsuccessful and the couple proceeds with separation formalities.

Once the couple decides to finally separate, each of them is required to compile a list of all the items that were gifted to the woman by her parents and in-laws during marriage.

These items, mostly comprising of jewellery, furniture and electronics, are to be returned to the woman during separation.

It is here that many of these husbands and wives, earlier wanting to return to each other, begin to turn bitter. “Both feel they are being unfair in preparing the stridhan (the gifts received by the bride during a wedding) list. Once they have decided to separate, I have seen couples end up fighting for every single bit of item in their house,” says Inspector Chhabra.

Bitter to the very end “Did I know during our marriage three years ago that one day I would have to prepare such a list,” asks Neeta Trivedi. She finally decides to leave the list to her husband. “Return what you think was mine, or keep everything with you. I just want to separate,” she tells her husband.

But marriage counsellors say that this is the opportunity partners look out for to harass each other. “Very often we come across men who damage electronic products belonging to their wives when they realise that they have to return them. It makes them feel they have got even,” says Bhoop Singh, a mediator.

—Names of couples changed

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