NEW DELHI: Women may be able to stake claim to marital property if an amendment to matrimonial laws is accepted by the Cabinet. Among the amendments proposed by the government are allowing courts to decide on how property acquired during marriage is shared and powers to waive off six-month period of staying together before divorce can be granted in cases where the separation is by mutual consent. Also, adopted kids are likely to get the same rights as natural-born kids. The Marriage Laws (amendment) Bill, which is likely to come up before the Cabinet on Thursday, seeks to amend the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
The amendments are based on the recommendations of the standing committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice. The panel had recommended that the government make provisions to ensure that courts, at the time of divorce, can decide on the share of women in the matrimonial property, to which they have contributed during the marriage.
The committee had rejected the government's proposal to remove the six-month waiting period before moving a joint motion in case of divorce by mutual consent. But giving in to concerns expressed by women's rights activists, the government has suggested that the judge will have the power to waive off the waiting period. The amendments are likely to stir a debate, with activists opposed to such powers being left to the court's discretion. Women's rights advocate and former Law Commission member Kirti Singh said, "This is less than a half measure and requires widespread discussion with women's groups."
Studies have shown that in 80% cases, women have no place to go to after divorce and live with their parents. "Women should get half or more of the share of matrimonial property because they have contributed to it. They have no resources to take care of children and the aged, and that must be kept in consideration," Singh said.
Women's activist Kalyani Menon Sen, too, expressed concern over the amendments, "There have been a large number of brilliant judgments, but there is a huge section of judiciary that can be extremely anti-women and patriarchal. We have seen some examples of appalling moral policing and we can't depend in the judiciary to be even-handed always."