Divorced Women Gain Rights to Property!
Just a few months ago, the Union Cabinet, in a recent amendment to a law, stated that a woman will now get a clearly defined share in her husband’s residential property, irrespective of whether the property was acquired before or during the marriage. This is the first time that marriage legislation has introduced a provision for a woman’s share in marital property. According to the prevailing law, the husband pays the woman a monthly maintenance or a one-time settlement, but both are, a sort of pittance, which results in the divorced woman being financially insecure. It was also laid down that the six-month cooling off period (which couples need to spend together before moving the joint motion for a divorce) would be reduced only if both than man and the woman concerned move an application to this effect.
Now the two key legislations have undergone this change, namely the Hindu Marriage Act 1995, and Special Marriage Act, 1954. As against the earlier ambiguity, this will surely go a long way in empowering divorced women and allowing them financial stability. Experts in the field are of the opinion that often this economic impediment used to deter women from walking out of an abusive marriage. But now that law has made women a stakeholder in her husband’s residential property, she is ensured a home to stay in, in case of matrimonial disputes and pending court judgements. A similar legislation was the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which had given the right to the victim to stay in the same household, besides providing for the payment of compensation to meet the victim’s expenses. This alteration to the obsolete marriage laws was the need of the hour to emancipate women from the clutches of a failed marriage.
However, people who are opposing this amendment believe that it is biased and ill-conceived. According to them, it is unfair for the men and on the other hand, it does not empower women in the true sense of the term. Since women today are equally dynamic in the workforce and financially self-sufficient on their own, it is actually regressive to pass such an amendment, which gives a woman equal rights over property that is solely acquired by their husbands. Also, for cases in which the woman has more property than the husband, the amendment stands to be more unjust and discriminatory. It might also encourage women to blackmail their husbands or threaten them to file false cases, thus making the law susceptible to misuse. In order to ensure a safety net for women, concrete measures should be adopted to promote their financial independence and create equal employment opportunities for them rather than simply ensuring a divorce entitlement for them, that actually projects them as the “weaker sex.”
How women-friendly it is, can best be decided by the women themselves, perhaps. And also it would be imprudent to pass a judgement about it in absolute terms, since the scenario varies from individual to individual.