The whole country was taken aback when the news of Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao getting divorced broke out. Discussions over family dinners took place about how the institution of marriage in India is crumbling by the day. Some also spoke about how divorce has become so casual for everyone because marriages today lack ‘true love’. The millennials and GenZ were also subjected to sermons of ideal love, the one that must involve a bag full of sacrifices, adjustments and compromises in order to keep it alive. Amidst all the speculations and criticisms, how many of us for once thought that it is their wish and that it is okay to choose to end a relationship you no longer wish to be in for any reason whatsoever?
As per data published, India ranks the lowest on the global divorce rate indexes. The divorce rate in India is lower than 1%. A BBC report of 2016 stated, “Out of 1000, only 13 marriages end in divorce in India. “1.36 million people in India are divorced. That is equivalent to 0.24% of the married population, and 0.11% of the total population.”
Is this though, a good or a bad thing? Does having the lowest divorce rate indicate that couples in India are happily married? Or is its the lowest because divorce is a taboo in India.
The institution of marriage in India is not just a holy but an expensive and grand affair. It’s a system in which more than half of Indian values and traditions are intertwined. Marriage is the most sacred and pure form of Indian custom, the breaking up of which is considered to be a great ordeal. The end of a marriage is especially traumatic for the woman and her family due to the deep-rooted patriarchy that largely governs Indian society even today.
It isn’t that difficult to come to the realization that many people have suffered for their lifetime under abusive marriages just for the sake of escaping the tormenting life that divorce brings with itself. Those few who actually go through with a divorce face unimagined treatment from family, friends, and extended relatives. The taboo of divorce is such that our society normalizes death over it.
The prime reason out of the many behind why choosing to divorce your partner is sinful is because the Indian society gives more importance to following the rules laid down by the society than on individuality. Other possible reasons behind low divorce rates follow closely to the one mentioned above. They include the existence of children, the issue of remarriage, lack of financial independence (among women), lack of support from families, damage to the reputation of families, judgements and criticism by society (especially towards women).
BBC’s report also mentions the gender bias in the rate of divorce as well. It states that women are divorced more than men. This implies that it is usually the men divorcing the women leaving them high and dry. Thus women are forced/pressurised to do all it takes to sustain the marriage.
The times however are changing, though at a gradual pace. More and more women are marking their presence in the labour force, taking up jobs of higher positions as well. Independence in women is rising by the day, thus marking a rise in the divorce rate especially in the urban, semi-urban areas of the country.
Besides, more awareness of mental health and the importance of leading a fulfilling and happy life among the young is bringing about a much-needed change in the whole institution of marriage. We all know of some of our aunts or uncles being unhappy in their marriage and yet making a choice of continuing to stay in such a failing and upsetting relationship for the ‘overall good.’ However, there is now a shift in the way young married couples are choosing to lead their life, making the courageous decision of giving up on something that becomes damaging to them. What’s even more positive is that the parents too are extending the much-needed support to their children willing to go through an arduous process of a divorce, making the happiness of the child paramount, something which was unlikely a few years back.
There is no doubt that love requires one to compromise, make certain adjustments and sacrifices, but it shouldn’t be done at the cost of abusing one’s mental and physical health. Mutual respect, understanding, privacy, and one’s own freedom and independence are of equal importance as is love for the survival of a successful marriage. Failing this, choosing to have a divorce must be normalized, because, in the end, you are the only one you will always have.