There is always a big rush for criminal and civil disputes in the lower courts, where family matters seldom were brought to be heard. However, this is not the case now. Even slightest irritation in the family is brought for arbitration in the family court.
I was stunned to know that in a small district like Munger, Bihar, on an average 1000 cases are registered and most of them related to matrimonial issues. If that is the case in one of the remote district of India’s most backward state, then one can imagine the plight of Class A cities and the state capitals.
Call this growing consciousness among them women that they no longer wiling to suffer silently and remain yoked to their fate, the fact remains that the institution of marriage is coming under sever scrutiny due to such alarming development that is taking place with impunity.
I tried to understand this social phenomenon and its sociological dimensions which are growing at an alarming rate. I could attribute this to three reasons. One due to small family size, two, education and some sort of economic independence and three, due to the role of mass media in creating such awareness. These are self explanatory but still needs elaboration.
These days among those who are upward mobile, the family size is limited to 1 or two children. Girl child is welcomed in the house and has her space even if she gets married. She can return back in case of matrimonial problems and always preferred to daughter in law. As a result in case of any matrimonial irritation, she is ready to quit than to make adjustments or compromise.
This however was not the case, as earlier the family size was big and girls were married off as early as possible and they had no place to return. They were hardly educated and even so, there were no place to go if they break free. They only had two options either to adjust to the new environment or to silently suffer what they considered fate accomplice.
The second factor is now girls are getting educated at least in the degree terms. This is good enough to fetch them job. Bihar Chief Minster Nitish Kumar, initiated ‘Panch Hazari,’ scheme where he made mass recruitment of female gradates for Rs 5000. Even though it was very small sum, but nonetheless something to hang on for those, who like to quit the matrimonial ties.
Some say, this scheme has broken more homes than has made them. I personally know a boy who refused to marry one such teacher, because he could sense that she may become problematic at some stage.
Last but not the least, the television channel, and their soap operas, that are full of such stories and tries to prescribe solutions to any such problem. There is hardly any element of compromise or sacrifice in such social themes.
The tone and tenure of the language of the female protagonists is rebellious in nature. At slightest provocation the threat of divorce is on their lips. The ill effect of it is the alarming number of such disputes that is actually being resolved in the family courts.
Is this a good trend or bad? Some may argue in its favor saying its reflection of the empowerment of the women in the country. Other, may say, the religious fear is now getting obliterated and marriages are more a social act and there is nothing religious left about.
Had there been any fear of religious sanctity, such issues may never been brought out of house at all. The alarming number of such cases in the family court suggests that religious veneer hardly has any glue left to hold the contending parties.
The second inference is the diminishing role of the elders in resolving matrimonial conflicts. The younger generation hardly pays any regard to their elders. Any effort made by them in this regard is scoffed off by those contending by saying ‘enough is enough, lets meet in court.’
The scene in the family courts is very melodramatic with tempers flowing from each side. There the words like ‘I will teach you a lesson’ are a common parlance. Alimony, maintenance, and all such commercial aspects are the side effects of ‘I do, I do, I do.’
I won’t be incorrect if some mention of the dowry law under Section 498(A) is missed. A new business has emerged in the name of marriage and has taken a huge toll.
Well, this is a never ending story, but as a story teller, I feel, this is something interesting to tell to a wider audience…
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He recently was in Bihar and had first hand account of family court there. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]