In a woman’s life in India, the societal pressure to get married and “be settled” by the age of 30 is often a crushing one, one that leads to hasty decisions and unhealthy marriages. When rushed marriages lead to a toxic household, inevitably failing, Indian women are expected to put up with it, since the life of a divorced woman in India is often viewed as worse than facing the occasional abuse at home.
When it comes to divorce, even seemingly progressive individuals suddenly cower with a terrified gaze, pleading with the woman to consider any option but divorce. Granted, life after divorce for women is no walk in the park, but the stigma around it makes it a lot worse.
Let’s take a look at what divorced women in India go through, and how they navigate the damaging notions attached to a divorcee that Indian society needs to shake off collectively.
Life After Divorce For Women
A term that should be viewed as an indicator of new beginnings is often viewed as the death of life as you know it, at least in Indian society. Divorced women hope for freedom and liberation post-divorce, only to be met with scornful looks and damaging taunts. For us, divorce is still a big ‘no-no’; the end of life for women. A divorced woman is always greeted with a slight head tilt, eyebrows raised empathetically and, of course, a snap judgement.
I have a group of friends — separated and divorced men and women, and I meet them separately, twice a month. I look forward to it. But when meeting them. I realize that being a divorced woman is much tougher than being a divorced man in India.
For men, it is just another get-together. A poker night or a golf tournament; eat, drink, and be merry. But the divorced women talk about the reality of being on their own, the struggles of dealing with angry parents, and even the friends who don’t really get it. Now while the reasons for divorce may be many, society still feels the best way to deal with difficulties in marriage, is to “compromise”.
The divorced women’s group shares laughter and tears and hugs and always leaves each other a little more hopeful about the future.
Problems faced by divorced women in their pre and post-divorce period in India are too many to pen down. The moment a woman thinks of divorce and shares her thoughts with her parents or friends, the advice that she receives is similar — “Don’t even think about taking such a step. It’s absolutely not worth it and will seem like nothing in comparison to what you will actually have to go through once you get the divorcee tag.”
Related Reading: 9 Important Tips When Moving On After Divorce
Is A Divorced Woman Looked Upon As A Curse?
The reason why so many people so adamantly argue against divorce, even if the woman is trapped in an abusive household, is because divorced Indian women are often tagged for life, viewed as someone who couldn’t be a successful homemaker. Phrases like “She doesn’t care about her family”, or “She was never a good mother”, are thrown around so easily, while the man faces no such problems.
When I asked a few Indians around me who have witnessed or struggled with the problems of life after divorce, I was invariably met with more questions than answers. Neeti Singh wonders, “Why is it so difficult for the society to look at a divorcee (especially a woman), with respect? Why is she considered a curse ?”
Life after divorce is really tough for women in India because of the perceptions people have. “Maybe she should have tried harder! Maybe she should have given the husband and bond of marriage more importance than her own self-respect! Maybe she should have just adjusted and accepted her household.”
“The whole world is happily married and adjusting, what is such a big deal if the husband beats her sometimes or has an affair? She should’ve stuck with the marriage, it’s her fault it didn’t work out!” – these are just some thoughts thrown at a typical, Indian, divorced woman,” says K.
Divorce itself is traumatic, but this conditioning and bias makes it much harder for Indian women. “But there is hope and many people have started accepting it as just an unfortunate event, giving women respect without judging their marital status,” feels K.
Related Reading: 15 Subtle Yet Strong Signs Your Marriage Will End In Divorce
Why are divorced women in India viewed so negatively?
The life of a divorced woman in India, as you’ve probably realized by now, isn’t really a lot more liberating than the abusive marriage she might have been in. The shackles of society continue to limit her freedom, and the reason behind the stigma stems from generations of patriarchal upbringing.
Amit Shankar Saha feels, “Society basically wants to be happy with the status quo and take the escapist attitude of thinking that all is well.” It also gives others who are fortunate to have a happy marriage, or who have compromised in their marriages, the chance to flaunt their so-called achievement by looking down upon those who cannot sustain a marriage.
“Those who think that a divorcee is a curse are sick in the mind,” feels Ashok Chhibbar. “Today, a woman is as educated if not more, as a man, earns a handsome salary or runs her own business successfully. The marital status or otherwise is of no consequence. Every human being whether single, married, divorced, or widowed, has a right to self-respect,” Chhibbar adds.
“Women in India have always been perceived as helpless beings who are dependent on men for their livelihood, as well as their emotional, financial, physical and all other needs of life,” says Antara Rakesh. A divorcee is seen as a rebel. Someone who stood up for herself, did not compromise, adjust, or give up. But the gender stereotypes in India kill a woman’s self-confidence.
People in India see a divorcee as a woman who is too strong, independent, arrogant and intolerant; a woman who couldn’t adhere to social norms.
Can life after divorce change for women?
“Thus, instead of empathizing with whatever situations she must have faced, forcing her to take a step so strong, she is painted as a ‘divorced woman’, a phrase which, in itself, seems to becomes self-explanatory her character sketch,” Antara sighs. M, Mohanty looks at the greener side of the fence and says, “I can vouch for the fact that there are better-minded sections of our society too.”
Life after divorce for women in India need not be all that bad. There is nothing that time cannot heal. As you get used to being the new you, you begin to enjoy your solitary restaurant meals, enjoy your glass of vodka while avoiding eye contact with those beer-swilling males at the bar, but remain unafraid of their curiosity.
You ignore the mindless teenage laughter. In short, you begin to enjoy life once again and come out stronger, more confident, with a wealth of rich experiences. If you feel the need to take the plunge, go ahead and do it. You won’t just survive – you will thrive!
Yes, a divorced woman can be happy post-divorce. Life after divorce can predictably go awry for most women, but working on yourself through introspection and/or therapy can help you achieve a better state of mind. Seeking post-divorce counseling can help you get back on your feet and be happy again.
The truth is that everyone deserves love, and that doesn’t change for those who’ve gone through a divorce. A divorced woman, just like anybody else, deserves to be loved and remarry if she wishes to do so.
Life after divorce for women can get a little difficult to navigate. Spend some time with yourself or loved ones, try to devote your time to productive and healthy things. If you’re struggling with mental health issues after divorce, consult a psychologist. With the help of a professional, you’ll be better equipped to navigating life after divorce.