In Pics: Post Triple Talaq Verdict, What About Abandoned Women?
The Supreme Court of India made a landmark decision on August 22, to strike down the controversial practice of triple talaq (divorce by uttering the word ‘talaq’ thrice to the wife in person, or at times over WhatsApp message or even a phone call) in Muslim communities.
However, another important issue affecting millions of women in the country across religions and communities that remains to be addressed is the issue of ‘abandoned women’, where men simply walk out of the marriage without even uttering these words or any other formalities: legal or otherwise.
There are 2.3 million separated and abandoned women in India. The number is huge, approximately two times the number of divorced women as per the last census. There are close to two million Hindu women who are abandoned and separated; this number is 2.8 lakhs for Muslims, 0.9 lakh for Christians and 0.8 lakh for other religions. However, no concrete steps have been taken to support these destitute women.
The problem of this scale has its roots in cities, as well as rural India.
One such story is from a fishing village in the southern tip of India where a mother and both her daughters have been a victim of this sort of abandonment. Amudha and Selvi were just two and five years old respectively when their father left their mother for another woman. Little did they know that history would repeat itself.
The village is Hindu dominated and they belong to its most backward caste ‘mutharaiyar’. With limited education opportunities, the girls are married before the legal age of 18, and hence parents don’t register the marriage in the court. Most of the marriages involve dowry from Rs 2 lakhs to Rs10 lakhs, following the age-old traditions.
Later, if there are any issues in the marriage; there are no legal proceedings due to lack of a legal binding, money and awareness; and the village leaders solve these cases on their own, outside the courtroom.
In this village, there are almost 10% women who are either abandoned or divorced as per the village head.
Chellathurai, who has been the leader for the last 35 years, is an example of historical patriarchy and narrow mindedness still prevalent in India’s villages. For instance, he believes that any woman who marries outside her caste should be immediately outcast and not allowed to stay in the village. However, the same rule does not apply to men.
Such rules and thoughts particularly affect women who are deserted by their husbands. They experience higher levels of marginalisation due to such widely accepted cultural and societal norms. To add insult to injury, the inheritance rights of a female child holds no meaning here. Any rules related to property or lands are not well defined which further heightens their vulnerability.
In the attached set of pictures, I have portrayed the economic and social status of the family and their daily struggles working as fisherwomen. I have also substantiated about how women are being stripped of the opportunity to study, which is one of the root causes of early marriages and challenges thereafter.
Each picture has a caption which elaborates their stories further.
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