Post-divorce Journey: An ordeal by fire

Published by The New Nation on 24th March, 2017 (Link Above)

Barrister Miti Sanjana :
The sufferings of women in our society are plentiful. In rural areas girls have limited access to education and many girls are forced by their parents to get married before they attain majority. From childhood a girl is taught once she is married that marriage is for life. Therefore, many girls stay in abusive marriages and endure the torture of a man; but divorce never cross their minds. Sometimes they stay in violent relationships as their parents are too poor to support them or they have no hope of securing maintenance after divorce. In recent years, law extended many rights to women but sadly it did not change the dominant position of men in our society. The role of women in our society has changed significantly in the recent decades with the changing social, economic and political circumstances. A growing number of independent women in urban areas are breaking the taboos by leaving hopelessly unstable marriages. However, those do not have any financial security have no other choice but to live in the nightmare. A divorced woman in our society faces a lot of harassment, discrimination and obstacles in every step.
The woman has to go through a lengthy period of agony because of the poor and narrow opinions of the people of our society at large. A Muslim divorced woman is entitled to have maintenance till the period of iddat and no further maintenance afterward. Iddat is the period of time that a woman must wait to remarry as a consequence of nullification of her marriage with her husband because of his death, divorce or one of the reasons of annulment of the marriage. As such, Muslim law recognizes wives’ right to get maintenance during the continuation of marriage, but upon dissolution of marriage, maintenance is provided for only 90 days (Iddat) from the date of official notice! On the other hand, if the wife is pregnant at the time of divorce, she is entitled to get maintenance until the birth of the child. Besides, dower is a sum or property that a Muslim woman is entitled to get from her husband on marriage. The dower is connected with marriage not with divorce and under Muslim law a marriage is not valid without dower.If the dower is not specifically fixed at the time of marriage law confers the rights of dower upon the wife to effect the marriage. Unfortunately, in majority of the situations in Bangladesh, irrespective of the financial standing of the bridegroom, dower is not paid out during the marriage. As such the question of dower arises at the time of divorce. After divorce if the husband does not pay the dower, the wife has to file the suit to claim the dower within three years after divorce.
It is an absolute right of a Muslim women to get the dower even if she initiates the divorce. The existing law makes it far easier for men to divorce. Law has given unfettered power to a man and resulted in the worst impact affecting the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society. In rural areas every family struggles for subsistence without caring for others. Misery and woe are indispensable parts of their lives. They cannot afford to run case years after years for recovering the dower money of their daughters, which are very nominal. Even for urban women post-divorce journey is not only heartbreaking, but expensive. Law has not secured a woman any financial security after divorce.
The amount she receives is very trivial. Moreover, the lengthy legal process also makes it very difficult to recover this nominal dower money and maintenance. Law cannot save a broken marriage or fix a torn heart. But it can at least secure a woman’s right by mitigating her sufferings. Why in today’s world a woman has to undergo an ordeal by fire to secure her minimal legal rights of dower/maintenance. Why would today be no different than medieval times?
(Reproduced from media source)