ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Not Made in Heaven

Changing marriage laws will not necessarily make marriages more equal.

Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal introduced the Marriages Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 in the Rajya Sabha on 26 August 2013 as a law to “protect women’s rights”. He saw it as a “historic piece of legislation” and claimed that it gave out the message that Members of Parliament (MPs) are “on the side of women in our patriarchal society”. The bill passed the upper house and now awaits a vote in the Lok Sabha. But reassuring as the minister’s sentiments are, clearly one more law, however necessary it might be, is not going to be adequate to protect women’s rights in India at a time when they are under assault from all sides. Nor will women sit back relieved that MPs are on their side.

The Marriages Amendment Bill has gone through various iterations and could go through more before it is introduced in the Lok Sabha. It has been discussed over several years with specific inputs sent to the government by both women’s groups and groups ostensibly defending the rights of men. The law seeks to amend provisions in the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and the Special Marriage Act 1954 relating to divorce. It introduces the concept of “Irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a ground for divorce where the husband and wife have to live apart for at least three years before they can be granted a divorce on these grounds. This obviates the need for prolonged litigation on the existing list of reasons for divorce that include cruelty, desertion, conversion to another religion, unsoundness of mind, etc.

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