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Divorces keep rising, remarriages fall

Rashad Ahamad
29 Nov 2021 00:00:00 | Update: 29 Nov 2021 11:56:25
Divorces keep rising, remarriages fall

Nadia (pseudonym) tied the knot with banker Arif (pseudonym) in February 2019 after a six-year affair. A year into their marriage, they parted ways and Nadia returned to her parents’ home. After giving birth to their child last year, she decided to divorce Arif.

When Dhaka North City Corporation’s Zonal Executive Office (ZEO) and also the chairman of marriage and divorce reconciliation council sent them a notice for a final decision, both families encouraged the couple to give it another shot. And it worked.

But not every couple is so lucky.

DNCC’s Zone 5 Executive Officer Mutakabbir Ahmed told The Business Post that only 0.5 per cent cases had a happy ending like Nadia and Arif. The others formally part ways failing to reach a consensus.

Ahmed noted that the divorce rate in the city was increasing, particularly among nuclear families where outside intervention is rare.

According to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, if anyone wishes to divorce someone, she/he has to notify the chairman of the marriage and divorce reconciliation council but the ‘talaq’ (divorce) shall not be effective until a period of 90 days. If the couple reconciles within this time, they can move the council and withdraw their divorce notice.

If any couple in Dhaka decides to get divorced, they have to notify the respective city corporations—DNCC or Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).

The city corporations data show that 9,487 couples had filed for divorce in the first nine months of this year. This is much higher than in 2012 when 7,402 couples moved for official separation. Officials said that divorce has been increasing at 15 per cent a year.

Last year, 12,513 applications for divorce were filed, up from 12,504 in 2019. This means, 35 couples sought divorce every day in the capital city – one every 41 minutes.

Given that many more marriages are not documented, the actual number of separations is perceived to be much higher.

Why on the rise

Researchers and rights activists identified extra-marital affairs, lack of care for each other, bad temper and suspicion as the most common causes of divorce. Women rights activists said that dowry and physical and psychological torture are two other main reasons pushing the divorce rate.

Prof Rasheda Irshad Nasir, chairperson of Dhaka University’s Department of Sociology, told The Business Post that when two persons start living under the same roof, they may face some problems that they should overcome with passion, mutual understanding, sacrifice and compromise.

She said that divorces badly affect children who are robbed of a normal childhood.

Women leading divorce

DNCC and DSCC data showed that this year, 6,942 women (73.17 per cent of the total) applied for divorce until September.

A total of 8,481 women and 4,032 men applied for separation in 2020 which was 8,327 and 4,177 respectively in the previous year.

Jinat Ara Haque, executive coordinator of We Can Alliance in Bangladesh, said it was nothing out of ordinary.

“Once women tolerated tortures by their husbands because they had no options. Economic independence is helping their own decisions,” she said.

Choosing partners is everyone’s right, she said, explaining that marriage is a contractual relationship, not an everlasting one and might break at any stage. “We should focus on its fair and respectful ending, which is missing in our society,” she said.

She noted that once love marriage was also a taboo but nowadays, affairs are accepted by society unlike divorce.

Maleka Banu, General Secretary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said that divorce is closely related to the oppression of women.

Remarriage rate alarmingly low

Compared to divorce, the remarriage rate in Bangladesh is still very low, according to ‘The Prevalence and Determinants of Remarriage in Bangladesh’ study conducted by the Dhaka University Population Sciences Prof Mohammad Mainul Islam.

Marriage, divorce and remarriage all are public rights, he said.

Mainul told The Business Post that among the widowed, mostly are divorced, only 4.1 per cent got remarried. Of them, 6.6 per cent are women and 2.1 per cent men.

The study was conducted in 2016, taking samples of 73,51,374 people. He claimed that it was the first and last study on the crucial social issue.

Referring to the study, he said that they found some important results including remarriage rates among villagers, slum people, ethnic groups and people aged above 45 higher than others.

Remarriage among women is higher, the study found. It is higher among Muslims (1.5 in per 1,000 people) while 0.3 among the Hindus.

Divorce rate in Rajshahi division is 2.2 per 1,000 people, which is 1.3 in Dhaka division. More divorcees get remarried than widowed.

He said remarriage rate was 3.6 per cent while 0.5 per cent people married more than twice. On the other hand, 95.9 per cent people married once.

Divorce, still an uncomfortable issue

The taboos against divorce still persist across the country, particularly in rural areas, where a divorced woman is treated with contempt and looked down upon. Jinat said a woman becomes reluctant to remarry if she experiences a bad conjugal life. Maleka Banu said that after divorce, a person goes through a traumatic period but there was no counselling opportunity in Bangladesh. “The government should promote remarriage with policy support,” she said.

According to the Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics of BBS, men between 25 and 39 years and women between 40 and 59 go through more divorces than other age groups.

It said among the widowed-led families, 14.9 per cent are led by men and 85.1 per cent by women. In normal situation, 92.6 per cent families are led by male and 7.4 per cent by female.

Jinat said that after divorce, women have no control over family’s wealth. Most women are fully financially dependant on their husbands and after divorce, they are deprived in most cases.

She said the state did not uphold women’s rights while women lack knowledge about their rights.

Maleka of Mahila Parishad said that in most cases, women break off marriages when they can no longer tolerate humiliation and torture. She noted that divorces initiated by women indicate that they are making their own decisions.