Divorce As A Socio Legal Process

Divorce -partial or total – is the dissolution of a marriage by the judgment of a court. Partial dissolution is a divorce “from bed and board,” a decree of judicial separation, leaving the parties officially married while forbidding cohabitation. Total dissolution of the bonds of a valid marriage is what is now generally meant by divorce. It is to be distinguished from a decree of nullity of marriage, or annulment, which is a judicial finding that there never was a valid marriage.

According to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, ‘any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, may, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce’1 on the grounds mentioned therein.

Among the Hindus, who form a major religious group in India, marriage is considered as a permanent, life-long and sacred union. For a Hindu in general, a Hindu woman in particular, marriage is a sacrament and hence unbreakable. Divorce was fairly an unknown phenomenon among the Hindus before the passing of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act 1954. The amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act in 1976 is an improvement on the previous legislation relating to marriage and makes divorce easier. There are certain matrimonial offences, which entitle the aggrieved spouse to file for a divorce, available under the matrimonial laws. These are cruelty, adultery, and bigamy. Divorce by mutual consent is available under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 differentiates the concept of ‘divorce’ from such other concepts as separation2, desertion3 and annulment4. A divorce is that process by which a marriage, recognized as valid, can be revoked in the lifetime of the partners who then revert to single and is free to remarry.

But in reality, divorce is a major life transition that has far-reaching social, psychological, legal, personal, economic, and parental consequences. The nature of divorce as a socio-legal phenomenon is very interesting and enigmatic. The present study is an attempt to learn the persuasive power of the social factors in determining the status of a divorcee.

Literature Survey:

Numerous studies in the sociological literature in the west have examined and analyzed the phenomenon of divorce and its implications. In India, considerable research on divorce has been documented, albeit on lesser scale compared to the west. The main reasons for the limited number of empirical studies on divorce in India, are the lower divorce rates, and lack of adequate data [Amato, 1994]. It has been found that various studies related to marriage, family and divorce have been conducted at various periods of time. These studies, despite offering vital insights into the subject, circumscribed their scope to the demographic and causative factors of divorce; the “pre-divorce” stage, which a crucial determinant is of “divorce process”, has not received adequate attention.

Demographic data on divorce

As per Census 2001, eight per cent of the total married population [Two per cent of the total population] in Andhra Pradesh is divorced. Four per cent of female population in Hyderabad city is divorced. Besides, there is an increase in the number of divorced also. Total number of divorced population in the city of Hyderabad increased to 7433 in 2001 from 2850 in 1991. Nearly half of the total divorced population in the city of Hyderabad and also Andhra Pradesh belong to the age group of 25-39 years.

Research Questions:

The present study is an attempt to scrutinize the influence of social factors on the process of divorce. The present study proposes to consider the following research question:

It is generally assumed that there will be adverse and far reaching social and legal consequences of divorce, especially among the Hindu women, because the Hindus have been traditional in their outlook and marriage is considered as a sacred union among the Hindus. Is this statement relevant for the contemporary, urban, modern and westernized outlook about the status of women?

The Location Of The Study- Twin Cities Of Hyderabad And Secunderabad:

Greater Hyderabad Urban Agglomeration, including the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad alone accounts for 24 per cent of urban population in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The population of Hyderabad district has gone up from 3145939 in 1991 to 3829753 in 2001. Hyderabad, now nicknamed as “Cyberabad”, the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh is moving at a fast pace in the development of information technology and infrastructure.

Information technologies are drastically changing the way one conducts one’s activities. Yet, the social atmosphere in the state appears to be still feudal in outlook and practice. The median age at marriage at Hyderabad District, however, for female population is 15.3 years which is the fifth lowest in India and about 69% of females are married below 18 years.

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