Indian divorce is a bit different from divorce in North America. The law regarding divorce is different, depending on the couple's religious faith. The statutes for the different faiths are as follows:
|Religion||Name of Law|
|Hindu||the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955|
|Christian||the Indian Divorce Act, 1869|
|Muslim||the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939|
|Parsi||the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936|
|Civil Marriages||the Special Marriage Act, 1956|
Grounds for Divorce
Indian law recognizes only five grounds for divorce. They are as follows:
- Chronic Disease
Under Indian divorce law, the concept of cruelty has a different meaning depending on the gender of the individual. In 1997, a decision was made allowing Christian women the right to be granted a divorce on the grounds of cruelty. Before that time, a Christian woman would have been required to prove both cruelty and adultery.
The term "chronic disease" includes both physical and mental conditions. It also includes sexually-transmitted diseases. Hindus and Muslims allow a divorce to be granted if one of the spouses has leprosy or a sexually transmitted disease; the other religious faiths do not.
Desertion can be used as a ground for divorce if the parties have been separated for a minimum of three years. Part of desertion is that it must be shown that the two people do not intend to resume living together. Desertion can also be used as a ground for divorce if there has been no contact between the parties for a period of seven years.
If a couple is unable or one person is unwilling to consummate the marriage, this is also grounds for divorce. If one partner is sterile and the other was not aware of this at the time of the marriage, this can also be sufficient grounds for an Indian divorce.
Hinduism and Divorce
The Hindu faith takes the view that marriage is a sacrament (much as Christian faiths view matrimony) and that it must be worked at. A number of Hindu marriages are arranged by the families of the couple and the expectation is that marriage must be worked at in order to succeed.
At one time, there was no such thing as a Hindu divorce. A woman married and became part of her husband's family. Her husband could abandon her and she had no right to divorce or remarriage. The woman was not even able to leave her husband's home. In contrast, men had no such restrictions on their freedom.
Under the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, either spouse can ask that the Court award them alimony. The Act does not provide any specific provisions for child custody. Each case is decided on its own merits.
Indian women do have the right to ask the Court to legally dissolve their marriage but that does not mean that divorce is socially acceptable. A divorced woman can return to her family, but this is can be considered a shameful situation.
Some type of government assistance is available for women who are separated or divorced. A number of women in India are not aware that this type of help is available for themselves and their children.