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For every divorced Muslim man in India, there are four divorced Muslim women, says Analysis of Census 2011 data

There are gender discriminatory personal laws across India's religious communities, not merely among Muslims

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Muslim women, Wikimedia

India, October 20, 2016: In India, for every divorced Muslim man, there are four divorced Muslim women, an analysis of Census 2011 data shows.

Across religious communities, except Sikhs, there are more divorced women than men. But the gender skew is particularly sharp among Muslims (79:21), followed by “other religions” (72:28), and Buddhists (70:30).

Among divorced Indian women, 68 percent are Hindu, and 23.3 percent, Muslims, according to Census 2011 data on the marital status of Indians. The data were recently cited by Muslim groups protesting the Law Commission’s formulation of a Uniform Civil Code, especially a ban on triple talaq.

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Among divorced men, Hindus account for 76 percent, and Muslims, 12.7 per cent. Both Christian women and men cover 4.1 percent of their gender-respective divorced groups.

Women’s rights activists believe that the gender imbalance in the numbers implies that more men than women are remarrying. “If there are 100 divorced couples, it should show a 50:50 sex-ratio. The skewed ratio plainly shows that after divorce, not only is it easier for men to remarry but also that they show a greater need or want to remarry,” Flavia Agnes, legal scholar and women’s rights activist, told IndiaSpend in a telephonic interview.

The skewed ratio among Muslims could be attributed to two problems, according to Hasina Khan, founder of the Bebaak Collective, a Muslim women’s organisation based in Mumbai. “The first is the absolute powers given to men under the Muslim personal laws by allowing triple talaq and so on. For women, getting married provides security of shelter and food with few rights for negotiation,” she said.

The other reason is the state’s failure to empower Muslim women, she added. “There is little political will to address the needs of this sub-group. The socio-economic condition of Muslim women in India continues to deteriorate with inadequate access to good education, job opportunities and so on,” Khan said.

With a total population of 8.5 lakh divorced persons, the Census recorded more failed marriages in rural India, where a higher proportion of the nation’s population still resides. In urban India, there were 5.03 lakh divorced persons.

Maharashtra, with 2.09 lakh persons, recorded the highest number of divorced citizens. The second-most populous state also holds the largest disproportion of men-to-women divorcees. About 73.5 percent — or 1.5 lakh — divorced persons in the state are women.

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The highest population of divorced men in the country — 1.03 lakh persons — resides in Gujarat, accounting for 54 percent of the state’s divorced population.

Goa, with 1,330 divorcees, holds the lowest record of failed marriages.

More women than men in India are separated — out of a marriage without a formal divorce — the Census data showed. Activists believe that this indicates the widespread practice of polygamy across India.

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“Men often desert their wives in a separation, withholding from them the freedom to remarry. The data incongruence clearly shows that more men are into polygamy, obtaining second and third wives, while society gives no rights for women,” Agnes said.

Within religious communities, the highest imbalance of separated women-to-men ratio has been recorded among Muslims, with women accounting for 75 per cent of the separated population. Christian women, who comprised 69 percent of the separated population within their community, follow. Another significant disparity has been recorded among Buddhists, where separated women comprised 68 percent of the demographic group within their community.

Over the decade ending 2011, there was a 39 percent rise in the number of single Indian women — including widows, divorcees and unmarried women, and those deserted by husbands — IndiaSpend reported in November 2015. However, the number of bachelors (58 per cent) still exceeds unmarried women, according to the Census data, indicating higher pressure on women to get married.

On October 7, the Law Commission published a list of 16 questions seeking public opinion on the need for a Uniform Civil Code for India. Apart from probing citizens’ perception of gender equality in prevalent personal laws across religions, a question asked if the practice of triple talaq should be abolished, continued or amended. Another question sought views on strengthening Hindu women’s rights to inherit property.

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The Muslim Personal Law Board has criticised the legal panel’s exercise, claiming the Law Commission is not acting independent of the central government that opposed the triple talaq law in Supreme Court the same day. Responding to a batch of public interest litigations filed by NGOs and women’s rights groups on the issue, the Centre said the practice cannot be regarded as an essential part of religion.

“There are gender discriminatory personal laws across India’s religious communities — not merely among Muslims. Though it claims to aid vulnerable sections, the Law Commission’s plans for the Uniform Civil Code do not deal with these in the right spirit. The uniformity it speaks of would only dilute India’s plural cultures while bringing in the same patriarchal bias,” Khan said.

Hindus comprise about 80 percent of India’s population, while Muslims account for 14.23 percent. Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains comprise 2.3 per cent, 1.72 per cent, 0.7 per cent and 0.37 per cent, respectively, of the population.(IANS)

  • Ruchika Kumari

    All men and women are equal,still in books only,no practical application.

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Gender Inequality Strips Women to Control Sexual, Reproductive Options and Limit their Rights: Report

Director of UNFPA in Geneva, Monica Ferro, says gender inequality is often used to control women's sexuality and reproduction

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gender inequality
FILE - A woman adjusts cardboard boxes assembled to form a display highlighting the issue of teenage pregnancy in Mexico City, May 29, 2014. VOA

A new report finds gender inequality strips women of their ability to control their sexual and reproductive options and limits their right to choose when and if they wish to start a family. The United Nations Population Fund released this year’s State of the World Population report titled “Unfinished Business: The Pursuit of Rights and Choices for All.”

Since the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was created 50 years ago, the number of births per woman has dropped by nearly half to 2.5 births. Also, there has been a significant decrease in fertility rates in the least developed countries, as well as deaths from pregnancy-related causes.

But the UNFPA reports more than 200 million women worldwide are subjected to unwanted pregnancies because they have no access to modern contraceptives. In addition, more than 800 pregnant women die each day from preventable causes because of limited access to reproductive health services. Two-thirds of maternal deaths today occur in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.

gender inequality
FILE – A community health worker holds up contraceptives during a lecture on family planning at a reproductive health clinic run by an NGO in Tondo city, metro Manila, Jan. 12, 2016. VOA

Director of UNFPA in Geneva, Monica Ferro, says gender inequality is often used to control women’s sexuality and reproduction.

“Gender inequality limits the ability of women to freely make fundamental decisions about when and with whom to have sex, about the use of contraception or health care, and about whether and when to seek employment, or whether to seek higher education,” Ferro said.

The report says hundreds of millions of women worldwide — typically poorer, rural and less educated — are being left behind, unable to enjoy their rights to sexual and reproductive health.

gender inequality
Director of UNFPA in Geneva, Monica Ferro, says gender inequality is often used to control women’s sexuality and reproduction. Wikimedia

Women fare best in countries that have invested most in gender-equality policies and programs, Ferro tells VOA, adding that most of these countries are in the developed world.

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“If you look at the countries who are the most challenged ones, it is countries where women still face many barriers in accessing health, in accessing especially sexual, reproductive, health and rights,” she said. “And this has to do also with specific challenges, be it specific economic crises, shortfalls.”

The UNFPA has set several goals timed to meet the sustainable development goals by 2030, including eliminating preventable maternal deaths, creating universal access to family planning, and achieving zero tolerance for violent and abusive practices that harm women and girls. (VOA)