The Desi Divorce Dilemma
As a young Indian person growing up in the age of modernism, like many others in my generation. I find myself in a social paradox around the narrative of Indian marriage and divorce. I think that we find ourselves in an unusual position. In the cross-cultural transition from the “old school” train of thought to the “millennial” perspective on things.
Growing up in an Indian community. Marriage is part of the package of being an adult. Entering your mid-teens, you’re exposed to a whole lot of questioning from family. Especially at events about when you would “settle down”.
If you chose to remain single or had been through a divorce, you certainly became a hot topic for gossip and pitiful glares at these very events. Anything that deviated from the norm (arranged marriage) was stigmatized and rather taboo.
In fact, where possible, elaborate stories were crated to hide the “shame’ of the family. However, if you were lucky enough, you got to choose your partner.
As of late, the ideals of marriage and divorce have significantly shifted as people become more educated and accepting of the social and ethical consequences of marriage and divorce. Nowadays, divorce is steadily becoming more prevalent in the Indian community.
People are far more tolerant and open-minded about such issues and the typical social construct around the ideals of marriage have certainly adapted to the age of modernism. The dilemma lies in whether divorce is always the answer and why it is becoming the go-to option.
The general consensus in the Indian community seems to be that the sanctity and solemnity of a marital relationship is either not fully understood or respected. Similarly, many of us have a cousin, a friend or know someone that has “rushed into a marriage” or tied the knot to “lock down a catch”.
As a result, many partners in these relationships are unhappy or stoic.
Often leading to situations such as unfaithfulness, abuse and divorce. It becomes complex when innocent children are involved.
Being a legal practitioner myself. I have seen first-hand the damage that a divorce can do to a family and to a home. Now, don’t get me wrong. Divorce in general is a trend in many other communities and among other classes of person.
I have just had greater exposure to divorce culture in my own community. Questioning the moral and ethical values brought up with. Against the opinions and views of persons in the above situations in current settings.
Naturally, there are instances where divorce is the only option and sometimes necessary to escape a toxic relationship. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with the concept of a divorce. Used as a “get out of jail free card”. I didn’t fully understand the consequences of a divorce until I started working in the legal field.
Above all, it was alarming to see just how much it changes a person. Regardless for whether they loved their partners or not. Furthermore, the legal implications of a divorce can get really messy, just like you see on TV. When children are involved and you find yourself in a custody war. As if it was a drama serial!
A 25 year old mother and student shared her unfortunate experience. She got married at a young age and was abruptly left in the lurch when her husband opted to up and leave to another country without reason.
Leaving her to deal with parenthood and a complex separation. However, she has embraced the challenges life has thrown at her. Continuing to make the best of an unfortunate situation. Her advice to young persons thinking about tying the knot is to
‘get to know the person well enough before committing to them and when faced with small issues, don’t turn to divorce as the first option.’
The noticeable spotlight placed on martial regimes. There is a constant debate as to whether a marriage in or out of community of property is “better”. Often, you find courting couples picking out their martial regimes before engagement rings.
Hence, people find themselves preparing for the likelihood of a divorce before they are even married. When faced with a challenge, use the threat of divorce or divorce itself to eradicate the problem.
Traditionally, a lot of Indian marital regimes were in-community of property. Both partners sharing a joint estate, split in two upon dissolution of the marriage.
Advocate Tina Singh
An esteemed legal practitioner based in Pietermartitzburg. Believes this regime was widely adhered to by the Indian community. As it encompasses the virtues of marriage that ‘two souls become one’ from a spiritual and practical perspective.
This regime is still popular in modern times. However many are certainly of the option that this regime is highly beneficial to a partner that enters the marriage with little or no assets.
On the other hand, there is marriage out of community of property were partners can draw up an Anti-nuptial contract. Stipulating the distribution of their assets and abilities upon dissolution of their marriage.
A litigation Attorney based in Durban. States that she would most likely opt for this regime when she gets married as ‘it offers the spouses financial freedom and negates using the regime as an unfair bargaining tool when faced with challenges in the marriage.‘
As you can see, both regimes have pros and cons and there is no regime better than the next. It all depends on the couple, their views on marriage and divorce and what suits them based on their financial situation and moral outlook.
At the end of the day, the reason for writing this piece is to encourage an open and honest dialogue around marriage and divorce in our community.
Divorce no longer stigmatized and frowned upon. As many people in abusive or unhappy marriages will find it easier to get out of these toxic situations.
However, at the same time, the changing view on divorce has had an impact on the sanctity and solemnity of marriage as many couples turn to it as a first option instead of trying to solve their problems and escape reality which impacts themselves, their children, their finances and the legal system.
Captures the essence of this paradox perfectly when she said ‘When people divorce, it’s always such a tragedy. At the same time, if people stay together it can be even worse.’ Basically, when entering into a marital relationship or thinking about dissolving one, give it the gravity and earnestness that you and your partner deserve.
- Reese Naidoo, The Nifty Attache Blog
*All rights reserved. The above is the opinion of the writer and is in no way meant to be offensive or discriminatory to any person or class of person thereto.