3 Steps to Survive During the Divorce Proceedings

Legal proceedings in India are laborious if not frustrating and ancient. Hence having a survival plan during the divorce proceedings is extremely important. This is the time when your life is hanging by a thread, since you are neither married nor divorced and you might tend to postpone any major plans of revamping your life to the future i.e, post-divorce. But be wary since the postponement period could be nothing less than a year given the time it normally takes to get a divorce in India.

Hence the first step for survival is to be careful about what you believe. You might have the best lawyer who will promise you your divorce in six months but be prepared to make regular trips to the Family Courts for at least a year which might extend in case you are unfortunate to land yourself in a highly contested divorce. The lawyers in the Family Courts are there to milk your emotional anguish through adjournments and ineffective judgments so bracing yourself for a prolonged legal battle is the need of the hour.

I started out thinking that I would be divorced by early 2013 only to readjust my view and hope that I should be divorced by at least end of this year. Since the time I decided that I would divorce my ex I started putting every plan on hold right from buying evening wear to taking a holiday. Divorce proceedings are unfortunately not just emotionally exhausting but also financially diminishing. Hence every penny that I earn is locked up in my account to be spent on getting my freedom.

The combination of constrained finances and frustratingly slow progress in the Family Court can be excruciating to the say the least. To add to my multiplying woes, since I filed, my ex has dragged the case to at least two higher courts making me run to three different cities in a span of eight months. But through all this I learnt the hard way that you simply cannot put your life on hold till such time you get a piece of paper in your hand which symbolizes what you have known for months if not years.

So the third and most essential step of survival is to live your life as you want to after being legally divorced. Even though you might not be able to take on extravagant expenses (I am still looking longingly at the DSLR I have been eyeing for almost 2 years now), ensuring the small pleasures by treating yourself to a nice meal or a day at the spa goes a long way in refreshing and rejuvenating yourself to face another spate of long and arduous battles in the courts.

Giving yourself small and quality bundles of pleasure and joy will help you remain calm and composed irrespective of how long the legal quagmire lasts in your life. So when life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show that you can survive and smile for thousand other reasons.

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Re-victimization of Women

The lawyer of three accused in the gang rape of a 23-year old medical student in New Delhi, Manohar Lal Sharma, has blamed the victim for the assault and said “respected” women don’t get raped. [Read further].

This attitude is commonplace in most patriarchal societies where as women we are first tortured and harassed and when we raise our voices we are tortured and harassed even more so that we are insulted to remain subdued to our male counterparts.

The Indian society is rife with many such instances where we have been taught that ‘respected’ women do not get raped, molested or divorced. It is such an attitude that allows every man, stranger or otherwise to comment not just on how we behave but our dress, attitude and also our sex lives. We are supposed to be virgins on the wedding night or else we are termed as women of loose character and we are also supposed to remain silent when we are beaten and battered because we ‘belong’ to our husband who has every right to do whatever he wants with us. If anyone thought that domestic violence is an issue of the lower classes and the uneducated must read this.

The society teaches us that we must equate our husbands’ beating and abuse with love. After all, only because he cares he takes time out to beat you and abuse you, right? This, being taught from childhood causes the self-image to be so distorted that the woman might not see anything wrong with the domestic violence and might even go to great lengths to protect the perpetrator of the violence. Judith Herman has written in detail about the victims of violence and abuse clinging to their abusers. It is this attitude on which the perpetrators capitalize to continue if not escalate the violence and abuse.

Victims of crime such as rape and domestic violence are often questioned about their dress and attitude in a way implying that their behavior or dress might have ‘invited’ the crime. What many fail to understand is that crimes against women like rape and domestic abuse are about having absolute control and power over the victim and her life and very rarely about her attitude or dress.

In India almost 65% of the crimes against women go unreported because most women fear being ridiculed or disbelieved by the legal authorities. The negative experiences associated with reporting a crime such as being ostracized from the society, being questioned time and again by lawyers and the police about what you were during the time of the incident and the preconceived notions that exist about victims are discouraging to the extent of living with the crime and not reporting it.

As a society we are a long way from sensitization towards crimes against women but what cannot be denied is that the battle against re-victimization is layered and has several requirements of which the most important is that the sensitization process must start at home. We cannot make the streets of our cities and towns safe if we as women are not safe in our homes from marital rape and domestic violence. This must not be allowed to continue:

“As if the rape weren’t bad enough, I had to go through everything that I did with the police and doctors. It’s just more rape. The rape just keeps on and on,like you just can’t escape it.”  — A rape survivor

Family Courts: Hell on Earth

Family Courts are ideally supposed to be places of justice to solve family disputes and help warring couples separate to move on with their lives, but this picture is just that-ideal. In reality Family Courts are nothing short of hell. They are dark, gloomy and ill-boding buildings or rather black-holes, into which once you are sucked it is difficult to get out. It is thus not surprising that in India people do not wish to fall into the trap of the police and the judicial system.

Here you will find separated parents and children meeting each other in the midst of criminal being brought handcuffed for trials which take years if not decades to be wrapped up. God forbid if you find yourself in a contested divorce like me, you will find yourself spending the complete day of the hearing in the court complex where there are no decent washrooms,  every corner is liberally stained with red betel juice and you will be slowly drawn into the hierarchy of bribery that exists openly. Should you be a person of principles and strictly against bribing you can simply forget about getting your divorce in your lifetime.

The day I filed for my divorce I expected to be divorced within 6-7 months but now after seeing the workings of the Family Court and speaking to other unfortunate litigants I am grudgingly accepting the reality of having to make rounds of the court complex for another few months, god forbid years. This coupled with a Judge who refuses to take any decision whatsoever even if it is a minor thing as providing interim maintenance, frustration is a euphemism for what I am feeling right now. I cannot even imagine the plight of women who are far less fortunate than me and require the assistance of the court to live in a dignified manner.

In a country where the laws are pro-women it is unfortunate to see that the thinking is otherwise especially when a wife is not even considered equal to the husband in terms of financial compensation. Many a times, wives are provided with a maintenance which is a pittance and less than what the husband pays the servants of his house. So while I am tortured at every instance seeing my tormentors go free, laughing, cracking jokes at my expense and simply living life as if nothing happened I am left pleading for my life before I see my youth washed away in the quagmire of scheming lawyers, judges and the opposite party.