“Shilpa, did you hear the news about Bill Gates? After 27 years of marriage, Bill Gates & Melinda Gates announced separation. Who divorces in old age? That’s the problem of western culture, people don’t have values.” My mother said without having a cinch of guilt that she was commenting on someone’s personal matter!
“Amma, they weren’t happy. And, when people are not happy, it is okay to part ways. It isn’t our decision. It’s theirs!”
“Shilpa, you should feel so blessed that you have been raised in India with our cultural values. I read it in the article that India has the lowest divorce rate in the world. That’s the power of Indian marriages!”
As far as the numbers are concerned, my mother wasn’t wrong. She was absolutely right! India does have the lowest divorce rate. A study conducted globally revealed that India officially has the lowest divorce rate in the world i.e. only 1%.
But, like my mom, if you are also jumping to the conclusion that Indian marriages are by far much better, far happier, and more successful than the rest – please don’t. And, here’s why:
Fear of Log Kya Kahengey
In India, we are obsessed with ‘log kya kahenge’ and force our kids to stay together in an unhappy marriage. In India, we are so scared of the word divorce, that absence of it doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing well in the marriage department.
In India, marriage is not about the couple, it is about families.
So, even if a couple decides to get separated, they need to convince their family members from each side to make it happen. Which, most of the time, is a series of failed attempts.
Everyone in the family – from distant relatives to your neighbors to your closest family – tries hard to convince you how divorce will ruin your life. How it will leave you sad, lonely, and disappointed. How it will turn out to be the worst decision of your life. But, worse is when they try to emotionally blackmail you with ‘log kya kahenge’. They will give you a reference to how you will be the black sheep of the family and will ruin the family name.
They will not even shy away from labeling your act of seeking a way out of an unhappy relationship as SELFISH!
They will make every effort to make you feel sad about your desire to seek happiness. They will even tell you how marriages are just compromises. So, keep compromising and keep up the façade.
While a bad marriage is neither easy for a man or a woman, but in a patriarchal society, it is scarier for women. A low divorce rate in a patriarchal society like ours is never good news! It is just a reflection of how women are choosing to suffer in abusive marriages. In a society like ours where divorce is seen as a stigma for women, many parents force their daughters to stick to their abusive marriage.
These parents don’t shy away from giving shallow excuses such as:
“How will your younger sisters get married?”
“What people will say? It will ruin our family name!”
“You should think about your kids. Why should they grow up without a father?”
“Why would you ruin your kids’ life for your own happiness?”
“How will you raise your kids? You will need money! You can’t risk their future!”
… and more. While there are few who raise their voices, there are many women who choose to suffer in silence in the abusive marriage. In India, sadly, divorce is the absolute last resort.
Life After Divorce Isn’t Bed Of Roses Either
Society and even your own family will make sure your life after divorce is hell for you. With constant taunts and nagging, they will make sure they don’t leave any stone unturned in making you regret your decision.
So, here’s my simple request to Indian parents:
Dear Indian Parents, why do you hate your kids so much? Let them live. It’s high time you understand that divorce is not the end of a happy and fulfilled marriage, rather it’s an escape from a bad one. Staying in an unhappy marriage results in two happy individuals becoming one miserable couple. So, please let us live. Let us fly rather than chaining us down to suffer!