Indian lawmakers make divorce more women-friendly - report

by Nita Bhalla | @nitabhalla | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 27 August 2013 10:00 GMT

In a file photo from 2006, a beggar woman sits with her child on the steps of Jama Masjid in the old quarters of Delhi. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

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In country where women own only 2 percent of assets, the marriage laws bill would ensure wives a share of husbands’ immovable property

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Indian parliament has approved changes to the country's marriage laws, making divorce procedures more women-friendly by ensuring wives are given a share in the husband's assets, the Hindu reported on Tuesday.

The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill allows both parties to file for divorce on the ground of "irretrievable breakdown" of marriage and seeks to empower the courts to decide the compensation amount from the husband’s inherited and inheritable property for the wife and children once the marriage ends.

The wife also has the right to oppose the grant of a divorce on the ground that the dissolution could result in grave financial hardship.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal said it was "a historic peace of legislation" in a patriarchal society like India where women, who constitute 50 percent of the population, own only 2 percent of the assets, said the report.

He said that divorce is "gender neutral" as either the wife or husband can seek divorce, but the right over property will lean in favour of women as only the wife will be able to lay claim on the husband’s immovable property.

The bill was passed by the upper house of parliament on Monday, and now has to go before the lower house before it can become law.

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