Women’s Divorce Rights Abroad
In news from India the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice presented its report in Parliament on the Marriage Laws Amendment Bill 2010. Supporting irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for annulment of marriage, the parliamentary panel recommended that current mandatory six-month waiting period for married couples to divorce should stay in effect in order to protect and preserve the institution of marriage. The panel also recommended effective ”legal mechanisms” be instituted to help women get their fair share of the matrimonial property acquired during the marriage. The parliamentary committee also recommended an important amendment bill which proposes divorce on the basis of irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. The proposed bill seeks to amend the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and Special Marriage Act of 1954 to allow annulment of marriage where there is no hope of reconciliation in a marriage.
The committee asked the government to fully define the term irretrievable breakdown of a marriage in the bill so that all the courts dealing with divorce petitions in the system can follow the same uniform standards. The committee also asked for a clear definition of the term grave financial hardships in order to avoid ambiguity in settlements and support awards. Jayanthi Natarajan, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee, said “As of now, divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act is available on grounds of adultery, conversion to another religion, incurably unsound mind for a continuous period of not less than three years, suffering from venereal disease for not less than three years, renouncement of the world and not heard being alive for a period of seven years.”
However, the Committee is not in favor of eliminating the divorce waiting period of six months before moving a joint motion in case of divorce by mutual consent as proposed in the Bill. “The committee is of the view that the existing provisions of law for divorce by mutual consent are fair and reasonable and the prevailing cooling off period be retained so as to protect and preserve the institution of marriage”, said Natrajan in the Indian press. Natrajan indicated the Committee recommends that the government should consider defining the term “irretrievable breakdown of a marriage” in the bill specifically so that uniform standards could be applied in divorce actions governed by the courts. The term “grave financial hardship” as mentioned in the Bill should be strictly defined to avoid ambiguity, said Natrajan.
Current divorce laws under the Hindu Marriage Act allow divorce on grounds of adultery, conversion to another religion, incurably unsound mind for a continuous period of not less than three years, suffering from venereal disease for not less than three years, renouncement of the world and not heard of being alive for a period of seven years. If successful, the addition of the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as allowable grounds for a divorce in India might make things a lot simpler for everyone involved in marital breakups in that nation.