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The splitting of Brangelina into just plain old Brad and Angelina has sent the tabloids into overdrive and fans into a meltdown. Weren't they the perfect couple, what with their perfect looks, perfect...
There’s been a lot of debate around the issue of triple talaq of late, especially since the Supreme Court started hearing a petition questioning its legal validity. Here, rather than going into the merits of the petition, I want to present the sociolegal aspects of triple talaq as experienced by three Muslim women -- Salma (28), Shaheen (45) and Sajjida (48) – who spoke to me in my capacity as a lawyer about the travails they are facing.
Although the Catholic Church does not permit divorce, it does have an internal legal process that allows believers to obtain a ruling that a marriage bond wasn't valid on the grounds of one or more defects. If such a finding is obtained, then a Catholic is able to remarry with the recognition of their church. A new Supreme Court ruling, however, forces Catholics to seek a secular divorce as well.
Interim maintenance is usually considered to be the right of a woman going through a divorce and rightly so because of the tough financial conditions she may face as the marriage is dismantled. But what happens if the woman is working and capable of providing for herself financially? Let me illustrate with an interesting case that I am handling.
When my mother got married she was expected to look after her husband, raise children and manage the house. It was unthinkable for her to work or even go to family get-togethers without her spouse. But women's lives have transformed dramatically since then and sociolegal changes have supported and encouraged these paradigm shifts.
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Recently, the much celebrated climate scientist Dr. RK Pachauri was in the news for all the wrong reasons. People were shocked, including myself: I had interacted with him in the past and found him to be charming and courteous. Yet, somewhere along the way, this accomplished man was accused, with plenty of evidence to back the allegations, of sexual harassment at the workplace. So, what are the laws protecting Indian women from sexual harassment?
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When the world's oldest woman credits her longevity to two raw eggs a day and walking out of a miserable marriage ("I didn't want to be dominated by anyone," she explained), it's time to pause and think. Take or leave the raw eggs, but domestic abuse is something no one should tolerate.
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Indians rely so heavily on the courts because all other methods seem to have failed. We can't turn to the police as we are scared of them and their tales of corruption are part of folklore. The politicians... what can I even say? Even if we were dropped on our heads as infants, we all know that no one can turn to a politician for help unless one is part of their "family" (which makes the mafia looks like kindergarten children singing nursery rhymes).
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As adults we want to discipline our children and set them on the right path so that they can be successful in life. We teach them values like honesty, forgiveness, tolerance and, above all, to do the right thing. However, in a marriage gone sour or in a divorce we seem to forget all that we taught the children. In fact we behave like extremely spoilt whiny brats who can't look beyond their own nose.
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Indra Nooyi, the super-successful CEO of Pepsi, nailed what a lot of women feel when she recently said, "I hate being called sweetie or honey...All that has got to go. We have got to be treated as executives or people rather than honey, sweetie, babe." The stereotyping of women is still so prevalent in the 21st century that it makes me want to gag with disgust.
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"I saw her at the restaurant. Can you believe it, she was dressed to the nines, had on red lipstick, mascara, blusher. And just wait for this... she was with a guy, drinking wine and having an intimate conversation. It's pretty clear why her marriage ended." Now, even if this said divorcee was seen asking a McDonald's employee for extra ketchup, people would find a way to portray the scene as somehow indicative of her questionable character and loose morals.
There's been a recent blitzkrieg of publicity around the Kapoor vs. Kapur case, which earlier had 'new' financial demands cropping up faster than you could say 'divorce granted'. Matters of the heart aside, divorce can be a financial nightmare. Women tend to tighten their financial seatbelt to keep themselves afloat, while men run to hide their bank statements and holdings deep in a desert or high up in the snow-capped mountains where you'd need the 'Revenant' to unearth the truth.
Recently, an exclusive 'country club' invited me as a speaker for their International Women's Day programme. They said that they wanted the women in the audience to be inspired by my story of triumphing over adversity and rebuilding my life despite starting with only ₹750 in my bank account. As I considered the speaking engagement, I asked them about the overall theme of the discussion. Their proud reply had me gobsmacked: <em>'Beautifying yourself through cosmetic surgery'</em>. Is this what women's empowerment is about?
As I walked out of the park after my evening walk, a snazzy sign on a cheap billboard just opposite caught my eye. It boldly proclaimed "₹150 a Kilo". Since you can't even get a cup of decent coffee for that amount it piqued my curiosity and I walked towards it to see what exactly was selling so cheap. As I walked closer to read the sign, I wished I hadn't. My heart split in two...
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Oh, dashing devilish daring Djoko... no, no, no, no... hang on, let's talk about him later. It's the girls who are my champions right now. Do I need to say who? The invincible Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza who swept another Grand Slam, the Australian Open, taking their WTA rankings to world number 1 and definitely playing their way into the annals of tennis history. And to add the glint to Sania's beautifully distracting nose stud she was conferred the Padma Bhushan.
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A recent case referred to me is that of Sunaina (all names changed) and her husband Subhash. Sunaina, 23, has an infant who is barely six months old. Her husband has filed for divorce and she suspects he is in an adulterous relationship with a woman. Without getting into the moral conundrums of adultery, the big question here is, what happens to the baby?
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What strikes me as noticeably different this year is the number of legal enquiries that I've had about divorce around Christmas. In fact I ended up pacifying clients even on Christmas Day, along with wishing them holiday cheer. Picture this: <em>"Merry Christmas and, yes, don't worry I'll send your spouse the legal notice for initiating divorce proceedings." </em> Not a very happy scene, this one.
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My divorce case was initiated about 10 years ago and my spouse was (and is) a member of Khar Gymkhana Club. He was a primary member and as his wife I became a secondary member. When things started souring between us I started going more often to the club to use the gym and library. While this was going on, my spouse sent a letter to the club asking them to bar me from using the facilities.
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Contempt in simplistic terms means defiance or willful disobedience of the authority, justice and dignity of the court. Contempt of court is an extremely useful and powerful tool and can be brought against the parties to the matter, lawyers, court officers and witnesses. It may also be applied to those protesting against a court order or judgement outside the courtroom.
Can you imagine the families of the "boy and girl" meeting over cups of tea to discuss flower arrangements and the wedding menu along with who gets what in the event of a divorce? It's seems like a pretty impossible scenario in a country where divorce is highly stigmatised and where most people shudder at the very mention of the word.