Representatives of Men’s organization from all over India are gathering at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on August 18th to protest against the Amendment of Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage(IRBM). Chetan an activist associated with Save family organization told that government is all set to pass a law that will simply disempower husbands from owning their own hard earned property in the event of a divorce. And it would apply blindly, like a formula on all marriages. Government is neither ready to disclose amended clauses in the bill, nor ready for a dialogue with men’s rights activists to consider the rights and interests of husbands in the law. He said this mass protest is against unconstitutional, gender-biased and anti-male law making in India.
Sharing matrimonial property is one of the divorce-related clauses proposed in the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which seeks to amend parts of the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act. ‘Irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ could become a new ground for divorce, women could get matrimonial property rights and the six-month cooling period before a divorce would no longer be mandatory in cases of mutual consent.
The response to these proposed amendments by Women’s Organisation, Men’s Organisations , Lawyers all have given mixed . Some Lawyers have condemned the removing of the six month cooling period before a divorce but some have welcomed it saying there is no point in reconciling period for some marriages which are doomed from the beginning.
However Men’s Rights activists are having serious reservations. According to them the “irretrievable breakdown” ground is a disruptive change to the Family Law in India. Irretrievable breakdown changes the terms of divorce from a “fault” basis to a “no-fault” basis. That means either of the two adults in a marriage can unilaterally terminate it for any reason they please. Its consequences on society and family-life are far-reaching because it changes the incentives to stay within a marriage.
Many liberal democracies consider “irreconcilable differences” as a ground for no-fault divorce. But no-fault divorce is also the primary reason for the high divorce rate in those countries. Amit , another Men’s Rights activist told that the government has to answer many questions before it thinks of introducing such amendments. He said proposed amendments are applicable only to Hindus and leave out minority communities. If laws are made regarding women’s empowerment and property rights, women of all religions should be considered. A woman can oppose the Irretrievable Breakdown petition but man has no such rights. Isn’t this a proposal drafted with an intent to favour only women. Where is gender equality.
Further he questioned during divorce, under what rights wife is eligible for share in the property purchased by man before marriage. There can be cases where a woman enters matrimony eyeing property of the entire man’s family, files Irretrievable Breakdown petition and then walks away with 50% of it and without opposition. Amit also questioned the agenda of WCD members and Brinda Karat who are spearheading such amendments. He asked If a poor man has no house at all how will the “abala-naari” of Ms Karat find a home . So what is the ultimate aim of this provision.
Amit however had a few suggestions to the government. He said this law needs to be gender neutral. Replace “woman” with “Spouse”. Allow division of property only if the marriage is more than 10 years old. Exclude residential property if the woman has not made any contribution to it. Do not allow any educated woman to invoke these provisions as she is certainly capable of working. The division of all properties should be in proportion to the salary that they have both earned during the subsistence of marriage. If the same woman remarries will or won’t the law return whatever she has taken from her 1st husband has to be clarified. And lastly he told the law should clearly define guidelines for property distribution. It must not be left to judges’ discretion.
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