When couples separate or divorce, in a majority of the cases the women are left with the children and have no home to live and yet only about half of them seek maintenance of any kind.
In a survey of 405 separated or deserted or divorced women across the country by the Delhi-based Economic Research Foundation, it was found that in about 86% of the cases the children were living with the women, with just 7% of them living with the father and the rest were with others. Only 1.7% of the women surveyed were earning above Rs 35,000 while nearly 42% had no income at all. Approximately 80% of those who worked had incomes less than Rs 4,000 per month and were living below the poverty line with children to support.
According to the survey findings, more separated or divorced women in the southern region were working and earning (66%) whereas in the northern region, the percentage was lowest, about 39%.
The study pointed out that in most cases a woman was left homeless when the couple separated even if the house she stayed in had been acquired by her parents, as was the case in over 18% of the couples or even if the house had been acquired jointly by her and her husband as it was in well over a third of the cases. In over 77% of the cases, even vehicles like scooters or cars remain with the man and his family even if the vehicle has been bought by the woman’s parents or the woman herself.
In this light, the study recommended that women ought to have equal rights over the assets acquired during marriage as often, she contributed through unpaid labour in the maintenance of the household and in bringing up the children even if she did not have a job or income of her own.
The study recommended that there ought to be adequate social security for separated or divorced women as in many cases the men themselves were so poor that they were in no position to offer any support. About a quarter of the
male spouses who were separated or divorced earned less than Rs 6,000 per month.
Incidentally, most women did not want divorce even if they faced violence in their marital homes as they felt financially and socially insecure outside the marriage. The survey reflected this as only 73 out 405 women surveyed had divorced. Almost 82% preferred to remain separated without seeking a divorce. A little over half the women surveyed had filed cases seeking maintenance. The second most common case filed was for recovery of dowry, though this accounted for less than a quarter of the people surveyed.