Jun 28, 2010
The solemnization of matrimony vows from the Book of Common Prayers reads: “To have and hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and cherish, till death do us part.” Added is the imprimatur from the Bible which is enjoined by the priest after the vows are taken: “What therefore God hath joined together let no man put asunder”. (Mathew XIX-6.)
The permanence and indissolubility of marriage stood the test of time for many centuries and that scenario is well painted by James Beattie, Scottish poet (1735-1803):
No jealousy their dawn of love overcast,
Nor blasted were their wedded days with strife;
Each season looked delightful as in past,
To the fond husband and the faithful wife.
The delight, fondness and faithfulness sung by Beattie over two centuries ago is progressively exiting from many marriages as many failed and failing marriages are making a beeline to the courts with applications for divorce. But the disillusionment with marriage had already set in before Beattie as reflected in the following lines:
Thus grief still treads upon the heals of pleasure,
Married in haste, we may repent at leisure.
- William Congreve, English dramatic poet (1670- 1720).
Marriage has long been considered lifelong bondage leading to restlessness, as implied by Ralph Waldo Emerson, US poet (1803-1882): “Is not marriage an open question when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such as are not wish to get in?” The get out route now is divorce which was traditionally dreaded as in the case of death. Seeing the flood of applications and desperate hurry, the Central government is now amending the relevant Acts and expanding the ground for granting divorce, including “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”.
The Cabinet on June 10, 2010 approved a bill that seeks to amend the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and Special Marriage Act, 1954, to provide for the above as a ground for divorce. This would make it possible for a man or woman to seek divorce by proving that his or her marriage had suffered an irretrievable breakdown and escape delays and harassment caused due to reluctance on the part of spouses to turn up in courts. The bill would provide safeguards to parties of marriage who file the petition for grant of divorce by consent from the harassment in court if any of the party does not come to the court or willingly avoids the court to keep the divorce proceedings inconclusive.
At present various grounds for dissolution of marriage by decree of divorce are laid down in section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which include adultery, cruelty, desertion, conversion to another religion, unsoundness of mind, virulent and incurable form of leprosy, venereal disease in a communicable form, renouncement of the world and not heard as being alive for a period of seven years or more. The Section 27 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 also lays down similar grounds.
However Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act and Section 28 of the Special Marriage Act provide for divorce by mutual consent as ground for presenting a petition for dissolution of marriage. But it has been observed that the parties who have filed petition for mutual consent suffer in case if one of the parties abstains himself or herself from court proceedings and keeps the divorce proceedings inconclusive. This has been causing considerable hardship to the party in dire need of divorce. Easy and fast divorce, shorn of bitterness, may justify celebration, even a joint celebration.
A path-braking instance of celebrating divorce, according to a recent Reuters report, comes from Tokyo, Japan. With divorce on the rise in Japan, some couples are choosing to celebrate the end of an unhappy marriage at a divorce ceremony before friends and family. Divorce ceremonies were pioneered about a year ago by a former salesman, Hiroki Terai, who set up “Divorce Mansion” in a small space in Tokyo. Since then about 25 couples each have paid 55,000 yen (about $ 600) to hold the ceremony with all the pomp and grandeur of a wedding that publicly ends their relationship before they officially file for divorce.
One of the latest couples, Mr and Mrs Fujii, rode in separate rickshaws to the divorce mansion. “By putting an end to our marriage we wanted to give ourselves fresh starts and give our lives a sense of renewal,” Fijii, a 33 year-old businessman said. He said he felt responsible for the failure of his marriage as he spent too much time away from home and too much money on his various interests including cars – despite numerous warnings from his wife.
At the ceremony they smashed their wedding rings with a gavel, a gesture signifying the end of their partnership. A gavel has a frog’s head as frogs symbolize change in Japanese culture. “When we smash the rings together, I felt ‘oh, this is the end of it, really’ and my heart and soul felt renewed. Now I feel I can have a new life and start all over again,” said Fujii. His wife of eight years also expressed relief: “The moment I saw the smashed ring, I said to myself, ‘Yes! That feels so good’.”
Terai, who is believed to be Japan’s first “divorce ceremony planner”, came up with the idea of divorce ceremonies to help couples celebrate decision to separate after one of his friends was going through a bitter divorce. And now he is set to take his pioneering gimmick beyond Japan. In July 2010 Terai heads off on his first business venture abroad to Korea to officially divorce a couple in Seoul.
While all this sounds novel and interesting, and has potential to spread elsewhere, where do the children of divorcees, if any, fit into the picture? Will India import the Japanese novelty by joyously celebrating divorce with family and friends? Instead of smashing the wedding rings with a gavel, will Indians evolve some indigenous rituals?
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).
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