In Pics: Post Triple Talaq Verdict, What About Abandoned Women?  
Muthukaraupayi, 52 was abandoned by her husband 24 years ago for another woman without any legal divorce or compensation. She has been working as a fisherwoman to support her two daughters.
Muthukaraupayi, 52 was abandoned by her husband 24 years ago for another woman without any legal divorce or compensation. She has been working as a fisherwoman to support her two daughters.(Photo Courtesy: Deepti Asthana)

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.

The family is dependent on the daily earning for buying their grocery for the day. Even one day of loss might mean no food on the table. Amudha cooks on a wood stove, which is extremely unhealthy.
The family is dependent on the daily earning for buying their grocery for the day. Even one day of loss might mean no food on the table. Amudha cooks on a wood stove, which is extremely unhealthy.
(Photo Courtesy: Deepti Asthana)

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 life of fisher women is harsh and vulnerable in Dhanushkodi. While the marriage of a girl is seen as the most important aspect of her life, the abandoned women receive no respect in society and hardly go for a second marriage.
The life of fisher women is harsh and vulnerable in Dhanushkodi. While the marriage of a girl is seen as the most important aspect of her life, the abandoned women receive no respect in society and hardly go for a second marriage.
(Photo Courtesy: Deepti Asthana)

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.

Amudha started to work in place of her mother when she wasn’t strong enough for the job. She earns daily wages of 50-100 rupees by pulling the fishing net from the sea, at times the net could be as heavy as one ton or more.
Amudha started to work in place of her mother when she wasn’t strong enough for the job. She earns daily wages of 50-100 rupees by pulling the fishing net from the sea, at times the net could be as heavy as one ton or more.
(Photo Courtesy: Deepti Asthana)

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.

Sharanya, 21 was the first girl in the village to get a govt job, in a post office when an officer recognized her exceptional merit in school. Her marriage was fixed at a very young age and she is being denied college education from her would be in-laws.
Sharanya, 21 was the first girl in the village to get a govt job, in a post office when an officer recognized her exceptional merit in school. Her marriage was fixed at a very young age and she is being denied college education from her would be in-laws.
(Photo Courtesy: Deepti Asthana)

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.

Amudha and Selvi are the only two women in their work group. Amudha’s husband often complains about she works with other men and might be having an affair.
Amudha and Selvi are the only two women in their work group. Amudha’s husband often complains about she works with other men and might be having an affair.
(Photo Courtesy: Deepti Asthana)

(#TalkingStalking: Have you ever been stalked? Share your experience with The Quint and inspire others to shatter the silence surrounding stalking. Send your stories to editor@thequint.com or WhatsApp @ +919999008335.)

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)