Social and Legal Aspects of Marriage in Women with Mental Illness in India

By Sharma, Indira; Tripathi, C. et al. | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, July 2015 | Go to article overview

Social and Legal Aspects of Marriage in Women with Mental Illness in India


Sharma, Indira, Tripathi, C., Pathak, Abhishek, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: Indira. Sharma, C. Tripathi, Abhishek. Pathak

The institution of marriage in Hindus is regulated by the prevailing social norms and the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), 1955. Married women with mental illness are heavily discriminated. This paper examines the social and legal aspects of Hindu marriage in women with mental illness. The HMA, 1955 lays down the conditions for a Hindu marriage and also provides matrimonial reliefs: Nullity of marriage, restitution of conjugal rights, judicial separation and divorce. The application of the provisions of HMA in the setting mental illness is difficult and challenging. There is a wide gap between the legislative provisions of HMA, and societal value systems and attitudes towards marriage in Indian society. Societal norms are powerful and often override the legal provisions. The disparities are most glaring in the setting of mental illness in women. This is a reflection of social stigma for mental illness and patriarchal attitude towards women. Concerted efforts are needed to bridge the gap between the legislative provisions of HMA and societal value systems and attitudes toward marriage. Awareness programs regarding the nature and types of mental illness, advances in treatment and information about good outcome of severe mental illness will be helpful. Improvement in moral and religious values will overcome to some extent the negative attitudes and patriarchal mind set toward married women with mental illness.

Introduction

Both society and law deal with human behavior. Society provides guidelines and rules for behavior and imposes punishment if the same are violated. When society fails in implementing the rules, it adopts stringent measures; enacts laws. Legislations also provides the basic guidelines/code of conduct for acceptable behavior and punishment for violating the prescribed code of conduct. Legislation imparts justice by punishing the guilty and providing various reliefs to victims. Once legislation is enacted, it is sent back to the community for implementation. It is supposed to be followed by all people, including those who had been violating society's prescribed code of conduct. Thus, the law can only be effective if the society accepts it and takes firm measures for its implementation.

Marriage is socially supported union between the individuals in what is a intended to be a stable and enduring relationship. It has been variously defined by sociologists and psychiatrists. [sup][1] Hindus consider marriage as a sacrosanct union between a man and woman. In India, the duties of the husband and wife in a marriage are prescribed by society. Even though marriage is a socio-religious event, The Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) [sup][2] has been enacted to regulate the institution of marriage. Four matrimonial reliefs are now available in the HMA. Now, in addition to social customs and values, a legal instrument is available to regulate the marriage of Hindus in Indian society. Several questions need to be answered. To what extent the societal norms and legal provisions of HMA relating to marriage concur? Has the situation with respect to marriage and mental health of married people (especially women), and society at large, improved with the introduction of the HMA? Is there a need to amend certain provisions of the HMA? This study examines the social and legal aspects of Hindu marriage in women with mental illness. The term of reference for the legal aspects is the HMA. [sup][2]

Concept of Marriage

Socio-religious concept of marriage

No other community has idealized the institution of marriage as the Hindus. Marriage has been considered a sacramental union since the Rig Vedic period and has continued to be so in the entire Hindu period. Marriage is obligatory for begetting a son, for discharging his debt to ancestors and for performing religious and spiritual duties. Marriage takes place by the performance of sacred rites and ceremonies. …

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