Tricky question of rights
Reviewed by Kanwalpreet

Separated and Divorced Women In India.
Economic Rights and Entitlements
by Kirti Singh. Sage.
Pages 255. $47.50

Separated and Divorced Women In India.Women in India are facing a peculiar situation. With an increasing number of girls becoming educated, women as a workforce are contributing to the economy of the country. A majority of them continue to face the brunt of household chores at home. Beside the work they do at home which is not accounted for, in financial terms, they face rebukes and discrimination at home. The Indian man wants the money that his wife earns but does not want to shoulder the various responsibilities with his wife. This is what the author of the book, Kirti Singh, tries to research in this work.Rather, she goes beyond the mere earning capacity of the women. She delves into the issue as to how women in India lose out completely if the marriage does not work out.

The author, here, is more of a researcher, for she has interviewed women across Indian states to find out how women take all the ill-treatment in their husbands' homes even though the law provides various safeguards to women. Kirti Singh is not biased. Her conclusions are based on the qualitative as well the considerable number of her sample. The findings are common but when put together paint a dismal picture. For example, it is common knowledge that in the case of both husband and wife working, whatever asset is acquired is bought in the name of the husband. The routine expenses are put in the wife's kitty, with an understanding that the asset acquired would be joint or for the children.

Nothing is written and it is an understanding between the life partners which is based on trust. But this trust is routinely violated when the marriage breaks down. The wife has nothing to prove that the asset was acquired only because she was running the household expenses.

With the woman having no bank balance, she does not have the courage to leave her husband even when untold atrocities are committed on her. Jayati Ghosh, Professor of economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, supports this study for she believes that this area has been grossly neglected. Ghosh says, "This study makes clear recommendations for laws that conclusively establish women's right to….. at least half share of the assets of the couple during the period of living together…"

Another issue which is attracting a lot of attention these days is how the value of a woman's work at home has not been considered for a long time. A woman brings up the children, slogs from morning to evening and makes the home more than just four walls. Yet, her hard work is brushed under the carpet and she is termed as, "just a housewife." Such women, if happen to be in an unhappy marriage, have nothing to fall back upon.

The study covers maintenance to be provided to women of various religions living in India.

Indu Agnihotri, Director, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi, encourages this landmark study because, "It explores the possibilities that open up in the new life that divorced and separated women seek to reconstruct." The real examples of women, with their names changed, who are separated and divorced shed light on the actual difficulties faced by this section and their children.

It is a valuable piece of research that needs to be deliberated upon to improve the condition of women who are divorced. The clear message of this book is to move from rhetoric to action. Economic rights and entitlements of separated /deserted women in India is a serious issue. As the sample of 400 women in India in this study shows, they are in miserable condition. It also studies how women face difficulties even while recovering their dowry or streedhan.