Monday , 25 March 2019

Shared Responsibility For Making Marriage Work

The Supreme Court judgement declaring triple talaq as contrary to the provisions in the religious code of the Muslims as well as the Constitution of India triggered a look at the divorce rates among all communities. The divorce rate in every community, including Muslims, in India is low. However, the divorce rate has been very slowly but steadily rising. In a country where only 1 in 1,000 marriages breaks up, it is time not to remain complacent about the “eternity” of the marital bond but to ponder what is going wrong to compel more and more married couples to seek divorce. In the western countries the divorce rate has gone beyond 30 per cent. It is no more strange to see a man or woman in the US or Europe having three or four wives or husbands in their lifetime. Comparatively, in India the problem is still marginal. But we need to prevent the number of divorces soaring up among all communities, not just among Muslims.

Divorce is not an issue affecting followers of only one religion. It is happening among followers of all religions. So the roots of the problem are social and economic, rather than religious. All marriages are solemnized in accordance with the customs and rites of a particular religion the couple belong to, except those that take place under the Special Marriages Act. The conservatives argue that the divorce rate is rising because the parents in several cases have no longer any say in the selection of a spouse. In the traditional marriages when parents of the boy and the girl used to reach an agreement they also shared the responsibility of making the marriage work. The couple also married with the understanding that their union will last forever and there was no question of any divorce.

However, the conservatives may not be always right. The information on which the parents based their selection of a spouse for their son or daughter was not foolproof but limited as it came from some relations or acquaintances. There could be misinformation and exaggeration added to it by the intermediaries, who could be males related to both families. The qualities of the boy were usually exaggerated by the boy’s relations, and similarly in the case of the girl. It was usually the case that either spouse found that the partner they got married to was not of the supreme virtues. Yet, despite these oddities, marriages sustained. The reason was divorce was considered wrong by the society as marriage was considered sacred and unbreakable.

The scene has totally changed today. Parental decision making in the selection of a life partner for their son or daughter is giving way. With emphasis on individual freedom in the current times, men and women are choosing their own life partners. If you look at it objectively, it is a better social regime from the era when boys and girls were made to marry blindly. In relationships today, there is a period of “know each other” before marriage in which boys and girls interact with each other to find out the common things about their ambitions, desires and tastes. It should be normally presumed that if boys and girls are choosing their own life partners, the divorce rate should be coming down. Why is the divorce rate increasing? The conclusion is that, though the percentage of divorce is still very small in all communities. However, the fact is more and more married couples are finding themselves incompatible after a few months or a few years of marriage. And that would suggest that even personal choices are not good for ever.

The triple talaq of course is extreme as husbands can say talaq three times if the pakora made by the wife is not good or the man is angry with his wife for some silly reason. He does not have to give any grounds. However, in general, divorce takes place because husbands and wives, mostly husbands, lack tolerance. They are not willing to go out of the way to see that the marriage works. This is what the restrictions on triple talaq aim at: to compel the husbands to make the marriage work. If at all divorce has to take place it has to be on strong, rational and very compelling grounds. The general scene is that it is not only men who are pushing for divorce. In several cases it is women. The reason is the growing economic independence of the wife. A lot of divorce is happening in the urban middle class where couples clash on the questions of career and income.

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