India: marriages are ending in divorce at an unprecedented rate

Goa, India, June 06, 2008 (vaticans.org) - In Goa, marriages are ending in divorce at an unprecedented rate. Margao Judicial Magistrate first class, M. Rodrigues moans, "Incidents of divorce are increasing in Goa. The break-up of the joint family institution has only worsened things."

"It's alarming," according to Father Savio Rodrigues, a counsellor at St. Britto's high school, Mapusa, whose clients include children from broken families.

Children are the worst sufferers of broken homes. "I have received several cases of kids taking to drugs to escape the reality of a broken home," continues Father Rodrigues.

Psychiatrist Rajendra Hegde adds, "In some cases children even attempt suicide."

Goa registered 384 divorce cases - or a little over one a day – in 2007. Last year, 232 divorce cases - or five couples seeking divorce every week - were recorded in north Goa alone. This was an increase from the previous year's 171 divorces recorded in the region. Since January this year, 78 divorces have already been filed in the north.

In south Goa, the figures showed a similar trend. While Salcete and Mormugao talukas registered 93 and 35 cases each in 2006, divorces increased to 109 and 43 cases, respectively, in 2007. This year's divorce cases filed are 13 in Mormugao and 38 in Salcete talukas, respectively.

Middle-aged women in their 50s and 60s, who are ill-treated by their husbands and in-laws, look forward to separation rather than divorce under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005).It was implemented in the State only in 2007 and family counsellors believe this is only the tip of the iceberg. Most women complain of sexual or physical assault, torture, extra-marital affairs and children abuse. Many allege they are not allowed to take up jobs, besides not being given money for daily expenses. In most cases the children support the mother.

Observes Dr. Pramod Salgaocar, chairperson of the Goa State Commission for Women, "Surprisingly, women in their 50s and 60s are opting for separation rather than divorce as they feel the Act ensures protection of their rights."

It grants immediate relief, deters the perpetrator and enables the woman to sustain her battle against domestic violence while maintaining her rights.

Family laws under the Portugese Civil Code enjoin that husband and wife have equal share in all assets acquired before and after marriage, ensuring that both have equal rights to home, property and bank account. Family laws may guarantee a woman her rights but she should have the sustaining power to last out, which in most cases, is difficult. If she is thrown out of her house, there is no alternative and immediate support system.

"Separation could well be a step taken by the husband and wife to safeguard the family reputation. It also allows room for the couple to come together in future," comments Father Socorro Mendes.

The women often prefer to stay separately with the tag of "married women," for fear of the social stigma of "divorced women" hampering their children's - especially their daughter's - marriage prospects," according to women's activist Advocate Albertina Almeida.

Marriage counsellors and social scientists believe that the dependence of an increasing number of Goans on foreign jobs is linked to the increasing cases of divorce petitions. "When one spouse is abroad and the other is home looking after the family, the physical and emotional attachment between them decreases, even as proximity with a friend or associate increases," opines marriage analyst Dr. Sadia Marques.

Today's couples are often "educated, qualified professionals who know their rights and don't mind asserting them" observes Advocate Caroline Colaco.

"Being financially independent, the couple prefers divorce rather than live in an unhappy marriage."

"Emancipation of women has also led to an increase in divorces as husbands and even mothers-in-law refuse to accept the changing role of man and woman in society. The idea that man is God is still a part of our culture," comments Father Socorro Mendes, Director of the Family Service Centre, Archdiocese of Goa.

Source: CBCI

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