Happily ever after

Never mind the doomsday predictions. The Marriage Amendment Bill (2010) brings greater dignity and justice to equal partners in marriage, writes Namita Bhandare in Hindustan Times

In the din of the unseemly skirmish between the army chief and the defence minister, a little Bill that could have big implications on marriage slipped by relatively unnoticed and unsung. The Cabinet this past week approved the Marriage Amendments Bill (2010). If passed by Parliament, it has the potential to become a new deal for thousands of women trapped in abusive marriages.

The Bill marks three significant departures from the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and the Special Marriage Act of 1954. First, spouses will share assets acquired during the course of the marriage regardless of who paid for them (this obviously does not apply to ancestral property). Second, it introduces a new ground for divorce: irretrievable breakdown of marriage. A wife can oppose a husband’s plea for divorce under this ground but a husband may not. Moreover, if the judges are convinced that the marriage is beyond repair, they will have the discretion to waive the present cooling off period of six to 18 months. And third, adopted children will now have the same rights as biological offspring in the event of a divorce.

All of this is in the realm of possibility; the Bill is yet to become law. Women’s groups have welcomed it – by and large – but elsewhere doomsday predictions range from the death of marriage to the birth of a new breed of mercenary woman. more

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