Divorced women in dire straits: Survey

Conducted between October 2008 and September 2009, the survey to determine the economic rights and entitlements of divorced and separated women involved interviewing 405 women across the country. Most of them belonged to middle class and lower middle class backgrounds.

Divorces and separations are increasing in India. Yet not much attention is being given to the way separated and divorced women live, often with their children, and what their rights and entitlements are," Advocate Kirti Singh, who headed the survey, said Monday at a conference to share the findings.

The survey found that in most parts of India the majority of separated or divorced women belonged to the 23-32 age group.

"Seventy-five percent of these women live in their natal homes because they have no economic support, and they are not always welcome there. Eighty percent of them have their children staying with them," Singh said.

"It was also found that 58.5 percent of these women were working out of their homes. Only 2.46 percent have better occupations while 21.63 percent were working as domestic servants or labourers," she said.

The survey said that only 1.7 percent of the respondents were earning a "handsome" amount of Rs.35,000 per month. The majority, approximately 80 percent, earn less than Rs.4,000 per month and live below the poverty line.

Another significant finding was that almost half the number of women surveyed had not asked for maintenance. The reasons ranged from ignorance to lack of resources for legal action.

"Also, the court cases took a very long time. The maintenance amount given was miniscule, maybe five percent of the spouse's earnings. Since most of the property is bought in the husband's name, the women are also without any asset," Singh said.
A shocking 83 percent of those surveyed said they opted out of the marriage because of cruelty or domestic violence in their marital homes.

"Most of those surveyed wanted the survey to lead to some immediate benefit. Almost all wanted an equal share in the marital property," Singh said.

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