India Churchwomen Get Divorce Rights

The Christian Century, September 12, 2001 | Go to article overview

India Churchwomen Get Divorce Rights


Churches in India have hailed legal changes recently passed by the country's parliament making divorce laws for Christians "equitable to women." An amendment to the Indian Divorce Act of 1869 approved by the lower house of India's parliament gives Christian women divorce rights equal to those of Christian men, churches say.

Under the act, which dates from British colonial rule, a civil court could award a divorce to a Christian husband on the grounds of adultery, desertion, change of religion or cruelty on the part of his wife. However, a Christian woman had to prove several of these factors together, making it virtually impossible for her to get a divorce.

"This discriminatory provision was tailor-made for the colonial Christian officers in India [to deny easy divorce to their Indian wives]," Jyotsna Chatterji told Ecumenical News International. Chatterji is director of the Joint Women's Programme (JWP), a Christian women's action group that proposed the amendments in the late 1980s. "But, even after independence, subsequent governments refused to amend the archaic provision," added Chatterji, who is a member of the Church of North India. …

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