India moves to make it easier for couples to divorce

Generic picture of Indian couple It is estimated that about one in 100 Indian marriages ends in divorce

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The Indian government has proposed a new law which will make it easier for couples to get divorced.

It has ordered that the country's Hindu marriage act should be altered to allow irretrievable breakdown of marriage as grounds for divorce.

Up until now, a divorce would in most cases be granted by the courts only if there were mutual consent.

Correspondents say that marriage breakdowns are becoming more common and India's divorce rate is increasing.

Minister of information Ambika Soni said that the proposed change in the law would help an estranged partner get a divorce "if any party does not come to court or wilfully avoids the court".

Last year the Supreme Court said the judiciary should strive to keep married people together, but it also ruled that couples who had completely split should not be denied a divorce.

'Raw deal'

The latest proposed amendment, passed by a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will include irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a legal justification for divorce for the first time.

"In today's day and age it may be a welcome step but it will only really help urban women," Kamini Jaiswal, a Supreme Court advocate, told the AFP news agency.

"Rural women will still get a raw deal as they are more oppressed by their husbands.

"Divorce is definitely more socially acceptable in urban India," she said. "I have seen a rapid rise in divorces, but in order to obtain a divorce it can take anywhere from six months to 20 years."

Official figures on the divorce rate are unavailable but experts say that roughly 11 Indian marriages in every 1,000 end in divorce. The rate in the United States is about 400 in every 1,000.

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