Warning: Long post.
This is a Divorce Lawyer sharing his views (his views in blockquotes) on TBG’s blog.
Let me put it this way. We all know Feminism is a big word today. I do realize that in Indian society men have forever dominated women, and it is obvious that at one point of time the women would have struck back too, and they did.
IHM: It is not men v/s women. It was (and still is) a biased system that enabled some people to control and exploit some other people.
Men are victimised too. The victimization is direct when their mothers are widowed, abused, thrown out of their marital homes and then when they work, are paid less for the same work. But men are also controlled by being made to fit into stereotypes and with expectations that control their lives. In India most sons do not have the freedom to choose their life partners even today. They are generally expected to accept a care giver for their parents as their spouse.
IHM: Feminism is not women ‘striking back’ at men, it is a slow social change towards a less biased society. It benefits everybody.
You know what I mean? In asking for their rights, they did not take care that they should have maintained a certain balance in their family life too. For wants to Feminism, they started to torture the husbands. I do realize and respect that women have some basic needs of space too, but after all these years of being oppressed when they started to take their life back, they overdid most things.
IHM: This is too vague. How did women ‘torture’ their husbands? By choosing to have careers? By wishing to live in their own homes (in nuclear families)? By continuing to have close relationships with their birth families, just like the rest of the population did?
How did they not balance their family? Did they have more children than the couple could care for? Did they stop the husbands from bonding with the children?
Did they refuse to accept other family member’s ‘basic need for space’? How?
What and how and when did women ‘overdo it’?
Men will always be men. They are all stupid. They can never adapt to anything. Have you ever noticed how different a man treats his girl when he’s alone and when he’s with friends? I don’t need to elaborate on that, do I?
IHM: Are men stupid?! I disagree. Some men who treat their partners ‘different’ when they are with friends (or with their parents) need counseling. Some others are victims of social conditioning that makes them feel it’s ‘unmanly’ for a man to show he cares for his partner.
And the women started to jump up and down in asking for their rights. Of course they over did it. My father was a great lawyer. A great family person. All his life he counselled couples and did his best to make them patch up.
IHM: What kind of rights did women ‘start jumping up and down for’? The right to economic self reliance? Equal pay for equal work? The right to vote? The right to refuse to marry a man they did not like? The right not to marry at all? The right to walk out of an unhappy relationship? The right to live without constant criticism and mental abuse (or cruelty)? The right to expect to be taken seriously and not treated like they understood less and knew less than those who never needed to ‘jump up and down‘ asking for their rights?
IHM: I am not sure if a divorce lawyer who thinks all men are stupid is qualified to counsel a ‘warring couple‘. The idea of lawyers saving marriages probably comes from those cases where lawyers have used dishonest means/arguments to make divorce possible, where there were no grounds for divorce and where one of the partners was fighting against it. Also from cases where maintenance or child custody etc are got or prevented unethically.
IHM: “Ask for anything‘! Lawyers who think like this can create bitterness and trauma for a couple who probably would have separated/patched up amicably.
Feminism is here to stay. I’ve seen some couples who want to separate because the wife says he doesn’t help me with housework. Today’s woman wants to break free from their husbands at the slightest whim.
IHM: Is not helping with housework ‘a slightest whim’?
This was one of the commonest causes for cruelty women have faced for centuries. Plates of food being thrown away by a displeased husband was (still is) common. Little girls in India are deprived of education and childhood, even today – to avoid such fate. They learn to make perfectly round chappaties while their brothers play cricket. Housework is a big thing in India. The exact amount of salt and turmeric can ruin a marriage even today. A partner who refuses to do their share is being unfair – and it’s not just about hot, hot chappaties.
IHM: In some cases maybe the problem lies somewhere else?
Someone explain to these fools how is a mother in law responsible for the wife not getting pregnant. These days divorce has become like selling onions. Everyone wants to get one at the slightest hint of a disagreement.
IHM: Even today, a woman who does not have children might face stigma. It’s okay if she feels the husband is equally responsible. What are the accusations against the mother in law? Has she caused conflicts in the couple’s relationship? Are such accusations common?
The more common kind of blaming: Mothers in law (wife’s mother) being held responsible for the births of unwanted, female grand children.
Anybody who believes that divorces are asked for ‘at the slightest hint of disagreement’ needs to look a little deeper. There’s generally more than what one sees on the surface.
They should realize that they get just one life, one chance. You ruin it, it’s gone for ever. Time stands still for no one. Minor glitches happen everywhere, with everyone. Couples these days should have patience, and they should realize that marriage should be for keeps. Most of them don’t.
IHM: I agree with not rushing into any major decisions. The idea is not to save an institution (of marriage) but to make responsible choices. One should also be prepared to move on if divorce is seen as the wiser option.
IHM: This is why it was a taboo – Why exactly are marriages in India disintegrating?
And this is what it often lead to, ‘Sixty, and nowhere to go‘.
Today, it’s the in thing, as you kids say it. It’s fashionable to have been married and have been divorced. Suckers don’t realize that they are wasting time fighting amongst themselves all the time they could have enjoyed life.
IHM: Being seen as ‘successful’ at everything is the eternal ‘Fashion’ in India. I agree with divorce or marriage should not be rushed into.
But divorce is still seen as a dirty word. It should be seen simply as a means to legally walk out of a marriage that wasn’t working. No taboos. Nothing to be proud or ashamed of.
IHM: Nobody is more or less guilty, because divorce is not a crime. Now women have the choice to make fresh beginnings instead of living in unhappy marriages. How does the society benefit from unhappily married couples living together? The children in such marriages grow up confused depending on what the problems were – the sons and daughters might see it as ‘normal’ for couples to live in such circumstances. Most abusers (controlling, violence, verbal abuse etc) have been abused as kids.
IHM: All adults should know that marriage is not a one way street. And it’s really sad if (IF) a girl has to begin her marriage believing her in laws are what you say they are. She would have to worry a little less if she knows this is not a case of a girl ‘goes in a doli, comes out on a arthi‘ or if she lives in her own house, has a job and if her in laws/spouse are aware that she does have the option of walking out if she is unhappy (Men have had this option all along).
Abuse becomes easier when the abuser knows the victim is helpless. When divorce ceases to be a dirty word, it will become easier for a girl to free herself from an unbearable situation.
…but most importantly it will help prevent that unbearable situation. When the partner and the in laws know she has that option they are less likely be abusive.
You say the word mother-in-law, and the first thought that pops into a girl’s head is bitch! And that’s the truth. Ask any young adult, let’s say 18 plus, whose marriage has been the topic of discussion at any point of time in her house, she will accept this. The mindset of the youth is like that now. Which is the saddest part of all. Works wonderfully for us lawyers though.
IHM: If a son’s marriages and life partners are respected just like a daughter’s marriage and spouse are respected, such divorces will not happen. Unfortunately many divorces are a result of expectations of a boy’s man’s parents not just from their son but also from his spouse. Daughter’s are spared such unfair pressure. Daughters are encouraged expected to make their marriages work (or to die trying).
IHM: I am sure this can be solved with communication. If it’s done for her good – and she doesn’t see it as good, then it would only be fair to find out why. Her doubts/ any issues should not brushed aside as her not being a grateful DIL.
IHM: Not sure what this means. How was this conclusion reached upon?
Reminds me of Ideal daughters in law training school in Bhopal. The school is either demeaning to women or unfair to men who are never given a chance to be good sons in law and husbands.
The school seems to think that the responsibility of making a marriage work lies solely with one partner. It also makes marriage seem like a tough, unavoidable test for women. Is that what marriage should mean to one of the partners?
What about the other partner?
Men are expected to stay away from problems related to (their own) marriages – their mothers solve such things for them. Maybe the ideal wives’ school, like this Divorce Lawyer, thinks all men are stupid.
IHM: Men have always had the option of divorce or remarriage.
Reasons for divorce were many. If the couple did not have any children or had only daughters, or if the wife wasn’t attractive or respectful enough, if she was sick, or if there was another offer with a better dowry – the man could remarry. This did not worry divorce lawyers – no legal divorces were necessary here, the wife could be just ‘left’. The ‘chori hui‘ or ‘left‘ wife bore the stigma.
Even today women do not like divorce because of the social stigma. They also fear living alone after divorce. If there are children involved they find it even more difficult to walk out of an unhappy marriage. Being economically independent does not change attitudes. Children suffer in abusive, unhappy marriages, but women often stay back in bitter marriages for their children.
Take a look at this woman who regrets it now at 60. Too late.
I feel anything we do in life should only help us live better lives, if a divorce can save unhappiness, then it should be seen as a positive step. An increase in divorce rate is not an indication of an unhappy population – it indicates that now finally women can see something other than ‘Getting and Staying Married’ as a goal in their lives.
So yes, Feminism is involved here. And it’s good for the society if all it’s members have the opportunity to live reasonably happy, peaceful lives, so feminism is good for the society.
What has changed is not that we have more divorces, but that now even women initiate divorces. Does it have something to do with feminism? Maybe.
I also fear we have a tendency to assume that a woman doesn’t know what is good for her – and she needs to be counseled by every neighbourhood sabziwali and raddi walla and a divorce lawyer about how much better it is for her to tolerate a little abuse at home than to be ‘out on the streets’ and be exposed to abuse from strangers. Generally abuse is not even acknowledged or recognised as abuse.
It is difficult for many to understand (or accept) that a woman who wants a divorce must have given it a lot of thought and that even though she has concluded that this is the most sensible thing to do, the step generally still frightens her. If he divorce lawyer preaches her to go back and ‘save her marriage’ there is a chance that she might take his advice and live an unhappy life… (she is likely to have heard the same advice from many other well wishers).