Women in India gain under new divorce law

By on October 1, 2001

New Delhi

An amendment to the Indian Divorce Act approved by the lower house of India’s Parliament in August gives Christian women divorce rights equal to those of Christian men, churches say.

Under the act, which dates from British colonial rule, a civil court could award a divorce to a Christian husband on the grounds of adultery, desertion, change of religion or cruelty on the part of the wife. However, a Christian woman had to prove several of these factors together – making it almost impossible for her to get a divorce.

Jyotsna Chatterji, director of the Joint Women’s Program (JWP), a Christian women’s action group that proposed the amendments in the late1980s, said that this discriminatory provision was perfect for the colonial Christian officers in India because it enabled them to easily divorce their Indian wives.

However, even after independence, subsequent governments refused to amend the provision, Ms. Chatterji, who is a member of the church of North India, said.

The amendment also changes two provisions of the law governing the Christian community: it removes a ceiling on alimony claims and limits to two months the time courts have to set preliminary alimony and child support amounts during a divorce trial.

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