Amdavadi women are stepping out of abusive marriages; statistics show an increase in number of divorce cases — 1,100 in 6 months — with nearly 50% applicants being women
Marriages are made in heaven. But once they go through hell, they are dissolved in family courts. While the number of marriages heading for the courts is increasing rapidly, most petitions are being filed by women looking for an escape from abusive relationships.
The list of petitioners at Ahmedabad’s Family Court reveals that around 1,100 divorce cases have been filed between January and May 2013.
Of these, almost 50 per cent applicants are women. Also, between 25 and 30 divorce petitions are filed every day.
Sakshi Dangi, 38, put up with her husband’s neglect for years only to discover his infidelity. When confronted, the husband assaulted her, forcing Sakshi to walk out of their marriage without wasting another minute. “I am an educated woman, with a promising career and a decent income. Why should I put up with someone who neglected me, cheated on me and then assaulted me?” said the Prahladnagar resident who is filing for a divorce.
While there is a backlog of around 10,300 divorce cases, only five to eight are solved in a day even as the number of pending cases is piling up. Though theIndianPenalCodefavourswomen seeking divorce — sections 13(i), 125, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 — maintenance and compensation settlements are longdrawn-out procedures. Besides, the emotional and financial expenditure add to stress.
Alpa Shah’s husband left for the US in 1994, promising to take her and their daughter as soon as he got his green card. In 2010, when Alpa and her daughter applied for the same, they were informed that the husband had been made a US citizen in 2005, making them ineligible for a green card. What’s more, the husband refused to sponsor them.
CASE DRAGS ON FOR YEARS
After 17 years of separation, Alpa filed for a divorce in 2011, a case she is still battlingeventhoughherhusbandwas granted divorce in the US immediately. “I am financially dependent on my family and am unable to take a job till the maintenance matter is resolved,” said Alpa. “People would taunt my daughterwithquestionslike‘Whereis your father? Why did he leave your mother?’. We have been struggling to make ends meet,” said Alpa. As if the ordeal was not enough, she is often told by people who have known her that the divorce was a result of “sins I committed in my previous births.”
“A divorce petition requires speedy judgment. The case should not dragonformorethanayear.However, our cases drag on for years making life difficult for the people involved, especially women,” said Bela Joshi, joint secretary, Ahmedabad Family Court.
Lawyer Roma Fidelis, who is handling several high-profile divorce cases in the city, said, “Education has made people more aware of their rights. Divorce is usually not just one person’s fault. Mostly, men are advised to opt for an out of court settlement because some of the sections of the IPC, like 498, favour women in divorce cases.”
Ila Pathak, director of AWAG, an organisation working for women, said, “A woman would like to hold on to a marriage for as long as possible. But violence, be it physical or emotional, will force her to walk out on the man. We try to counsel women and help them work out her marriage. However, beyond a point nobody can take it.”
ShebaGeorge,directorofSaharwaru, said, “We try to help divorced women by reinstating them in the community because they cannot live in foster care for long. Everyone longs to be with family. We help them lead a life with dignity.”
COMMON REASONS: ABUSE,
NO FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Relationship counsellor and consulting psychiatrist Hansal Bhachech attributesincreaseindivorcecasestothe five ‘I’s: independence, intolerance, infidelity, I (me) and intimacy. “Spouses are less willing to compromise in their relationship now, as compared to earlier days. Time constraint is a contributing factor — it reduces the amount of communication between two individuals. And lack of common interests leads to distance,” said Dr Bhachech, adding, “While most women state physical-emotional abuse as reasons for divorce, lack of spouse’s interest in domestic life, absence of financial support and demand for dowry are other major reasons.”
Physical and verbal abuse was a daily affair for Deeksha Patel, 32, who married Hemant Gajjar in 2000. During their 10-year marriage, Hemant never contributed financially and had affairs with several women, alleges Deeksha. “He did not let our daughter attend school. He said he did not want to waste money on a girl’s education,” said Deeksha, who suffered a heart attack due to stress.
“I suggested Hemant go for psychiatric counselling but his parents took him to a tantric. Eventually, I moved out of our Sun City residence with my children — aged five and seven — and filed for a divorce in 2010,” she said.
AN EMPOWERED WOMAN
Sociologist Gaurang Jani believes that the rise in divorce cases is only a reflection of our society. “Today’s woman is empowered. They are willing to invest in their relationships and not afraid to stand up for their rights,” he said.
But society still discriminates against a divorced woman. Apeksha Sharma, 41, was married to an NRI in 2000, just two days after meeting him. Her husband left for US soon after. Apeksha was left to look after her mother-in-law who was suffering fromcancer.Thehusbandreturnedafter a year-and-a-half following the death of his mother to reveal that he had a wife and child in the US. He had married Apeksha so that his mother could be taken care of.
Althoughhewaswillingtosupport her, Apeksha filed for divorce in 2002. But the tag of ‘divorcee’ has changed people’s perspective. “I thought I had found love again in 2010. But my boyfriend wanted a live-in relationship and demanded I renovate my house. Later, he said he wanted to co-own the house,” she said, adding, “Men want a woman who is financially independent and good-looking so that she can support him while he enjoys life.”
(Names of petitioners have been
changed to protect identities)