Divorce rates are increasing in India, show court figures. And this societal trend is visible not only among the rich in big cities but also among the not-so-affluent in small towns.
The Indian capital leads with the highest number of divorces in the country, with more than 8,000-9,000 cases every year, followed by Mumbai and Bangalore where the figures have doubled in the past decade, hovering between 4,000 and 5,000.
Kolkata and Chennai, the bastions of tradition, are also not far behind with a significant rise of 200 per cent in such cases, according to data compiled from various state courts and the Crime Records Bureau.
Punjab and Haryana, both agricultural states, have seen an increase of 150 per cent. Kerala, with the most literate people and the land of Gulf money, recorded an increase of 350 per cent in the last 10 years.
Earlier divorces were limited to the affluent upper class in cities. But in the last decade, more and more middle and lower-middle class couples have been coming out of their shells to escape the pains of a discordant family.
"A study of recent trends showed that such cases are significantly rising in small towns and semi-urban areas. Many young couples, particularly women, have been filing petitions for separation, which was unheard of in the 1970s," said Supreme Court Advocate KK Patel.
With the courts in cities and metropolises flooded with squabbling couples, the government has created the Crime Against Women cells and Matrimonial Courts to look into such complaints.
Sunil Mittal, a psychologist, believes that "the nuclear family structure, modern lifestyle and professional tensions may be behind the phenomenal increase in marital discord".
In order to give special attention to and expedite such cases, five matrimonial courts headed by an additional sessions judge have been set up in the capital.
Many states, including Delhi, have set up marriage bureaus where counselling is done to encourage reconciliation.
The judge of a matrimonial court said there used to be one to two cases in the 1960s, 100-200 in 1980s, about 1,000 in 1990s, but now it has increased to about 9,000 cases per annum.
"The growing cases of dowry deaths, bride burning and cruelty towards women are convincing parents that a divorced daughter is not unwelcome in their homes even though earlier a great degree of social stigma was attached to it," said lawyer Namita Roy.
"Dowry harassment apart from incompatibility and adultery are probably the most common reasons stated in petitions filed by the younger generation seeking divorce."
Nowadays many young highly educated working couples go for agreements to separate rather than fight it out for years.
In court, even if there's a petition for separation on mutual consent, the legal separation for a Hindu also Parsi and Sikh couple takes about one year, including the six-month mandatory gestation period allowing the duo for reconciliation.
If a petition is moved jointly under Section 13-B (1) of the Hindu Marriage Act and affidavits are filed by both mentioning that they had been living separately without a physical relationship for a year, the court would grant the divorce after six months.
Muslims and Christians, however, come under separate laws with the Muslim man having the upper hand due to the instrument of 'triple talak' as an easy way of divorce and the Christian man allowed to file the adultery of his wife as a valid reason.