Divorce on the rise among the rich and educated?

Divorce on the rise among the rich and educated?

When RSS chief blames education for the rise in divorces, he is missing the point, say experts

On Sunday RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat touched upon the topic of divorce while addressing a meeting of RSS workers and their families in Ahmedabad. “The cases of divorce are more in educated and affluent families because with education and affluence comes arrogance, as a result of which families fall apart. The society also falls apart because society is also a family,” he said.

Of course, he was right to point out that the number of divorce cases has gone up in the recent times-- it went from 0.50 per 1,000 marriages in 1988 to 13 per 1,000 in 2019. However, to equate this increase to the “arrogance” of the rich and the educated is a stretch, say experts.

First, it is important to remember that despite the rise in numbers, India still has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world at one per cent. A study by economist Suraj Jacob and anthropologist Sreeparna Chattopadhyay found that while 0.11 per cent of the total population was divorced, the number of people separated is almost thrice the number at 0.29 per cent. Which goes to show that the stigma of attached with divorce is very much alive. 

The educated and the affluent, therefore, becomes the group, who may have the means, if not the social support, to survive a divorce. For the less privileged, the lack of choice keeps them trapped in a bad marriage. 

A survey by the National Crime Records Bureau on abusive marriages showed that women who belong to scheduled castes between the ages of 15 and 24 with no formal schooling married to men who have no formal schooling and live in nuclear families, are the most abused, physically and psychologically. 

Bhagwat even argued against women being confined to their homes in the statement. He suggested that women should become “enlightened”-- just enough to be the glue that holds the household together but not go on and demand a divorce.

His understanding of the society seems to be stuck at the ‘bhadhra mahila’ discourse that the Indian national movement propagated by creating the image of the ideal woman--the educated, liberated who took care of the personal sphere making it the ideal space for the husband to return to after dealing with the outside world. To this structure, financially independent and self-sufficient women will forever remain a threat. 

Lawyer’s perspective 

Deepti Ayathan, advocate and founder of Ayathan Associates says that education has played a role in the increase in the number of divorce. “With knowledge, there is an understanding of personal space, freedom and equality. Marriage is no longer understood as assuming certain duties, but as coexisting with each other,” she explains. 

Education and liberty takes dependency out of the equation. “Earlier women were dependent on their husbands financially and emotionally. Now, with both parties earning, marriage becomes about the emotional factor alone,” she says. 

Education a silver lining

According to the last National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4) released by the Union health ministry, every third woman aged above 15 has faced domestic violence of various forms across our country. 

It also found that 31 per cent of married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouses.

The most common type of spousal violence is physical violence at 27 per cent, followed by emotional violence at 13 per cent. The survey also reported that among married women who have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, 83 per cent reported their present husbands as perpetrators of the violence.

Every third married woman who has experienced spousal violence spoke of assaults resulting in eye injuries, sprains, dislocations, burns, broken bones and broken teeth.
Yet, only 14 per cent of the women who had experienced this violence sought help to stop it.

The report, however, found a silver lining-- education. The report stated that experience of domestic violence, including physical and sexual violence, decreased sharply with schooling and education.

This was because the women who went to school as children were more likely to report violence. So, maybe Bhagwat was not all wrong. 

Divorce an expensive affair?

On searching ‘Divorce lawyers’ on Google, one of the top suggestions that came up was ‘How do I get a divorce lawyer with no money?’ The search speaks of a major concern for many-- the cost factor involved in getting a divorce.

Deepti Ayathan, advocate and founder of Ayathan Associates, does not think affluence has a role to play in divorce. Divorce can either be by mutual consent, where both parties have agreed to peaceful separation. The petition is filed after which they have to wait six months before they appear in court again. The entire process takes about eight months, and can cost between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000. 

However, a contested divorce takes place when there are property matters, questions of alimony, child custody or abusive spouses involved. In these situations, cases can go on up to ten years. “It takes a lot of time, energy and effort to go to the court and fight it out,” says Ayathan. She says that a simple case, where both parties have agreed upon divorce but have to settle on the alimony, can take about seven years and cost about Rs 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh. 

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