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Marriage break-ups: Trends and implications

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Salient Features of Indian Society


Source: LM

 Context: Many societies worldwide still uphold the belief that ‘marriages are made in heaven’ and its violation is taken as sacrilege, a social evil.


What is Marriage?

The institution of marriage is a socially and legally recognized union between two people that establishes rights and obligations between them and their families. It is a universal human institution found in almost every culture and society


Global marriage patterns:

  • The UN recorded a doubling of the proportion of adults (in the 35-39 age group) getting divorced or separated from 2% in the 1970s to 4% in the 2000s.
    • This was partly reflective of the changes in expectations within marriages with the women entering the workforce.
  • According to OECD, a mixed trend is witnessed as this proportion has increased in 18 countries (like the US) and reduced in 12.


Trends in India:

  • 93% of married Indians (among those surveyed in 2018) had ‘an arranged marriage’, as against the global average of about 55%.
  • The annual divorce rate in India is (low) at 1.1 per 1,000 people annually. This means, of every 1,000 Indian marriages, only 13 result in divorce.


What compels Indian women to ‘adjust’ to bad marriages?

  • Divorce is initiated by men, as prevailing social norms discourage women from exercising this right.
  • Indian legal framework is described (by feminists) “as benevolent patriarchal patronage at its best”. Hence, women encounter legal hassles and socio-economic isolation.
  • The low labour-force participation rate of Indian women translates to high levels of financial dependency.


The vicious cycle of financial dependency: There is clear misogyny in the matrimonial market in India → Employed women received 15% fewer responses.


Gendered consequences of divorce on socio-economic, domestic, health, and other aspects of life:

  • Women face chronic strains (whereas men face transient impacts) of divorces, as they suffer from
    • Disproportionate losses in household income,
    • Higher risk of losing homeownership,
    • Lower chances of re-partnering and also bearing the greater responsibilities of single parenting.
    • This furthers the gender gap in the standard of living.
  • Men tend to be more vulnerable to health declines, mortality and emotional damage (often face a challenge in maintaining contact with their children).


Whether an increasing divorce rate is a sign of women’s social progress and society maturing?

Loosen the hold of patriarchy, as divorces are considered a challenge to patriarchal power.



Mauritanian society celebrates a woman’s divorce and women lead a new life free of any stigma of a failed relationship. Such a societal attitude indicates a shift in the ideas of family and marriage.



A business opportunity for the increased demand it creates for homes and household products.

A debilitating factor in societal stability, given the adverse economic and socio-psychological fallout on divorced parents and their children.


Way ahead:

  • UN Women has urged all nations to adopt family-friendly policies and workplace regulations (like Germany) that enable women and men to combine caregiving with paid work.
  • The institution of marriage, as a basic social unit, should be strengthened for the well-being of families.
    • For this, the basic education system should foster equal partnership as a foundational value in marriage.


Insta Links:



Mains Links:

The life cycle of a joint family depends on economic factors rather than social values. Discuss. (UPSC 2014)