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Separated and Divorced Women in India

Separated and Divorced Women in India
Economic Rights and Entitlements

First Edition


May 2013 | 280 pages | SAGE India
Separated and Divorced Women in India examines the economic rights and entitlements of separated/deserted women in law and practice in India, and explores all the laws and policies relating to financial support for a wife or child that come into play once a separation or divorce has taken place.

Based on a survey of more than 400 women in four different regions across the country, this seminal work lays bare the miserable financial conditions of separated/deserted women and the lengthy procedural obstacles that these women have to contend with to get any justice. It interrogates the absence of any laws that would give Indian women ownership rights in the property and assets that they have helped to acquire through financial or non-financial contributions in the marital home, and suggests that Community of Property should be made a part of law for all Indian women.

This work further challenges the conventional understanding of productive work and advocates recognition of the productive nature of women's household work. Another aspect discussed pertains to the pervasive scourge of dowry and how seldom women recover their dowry and stridhan through the law.

Foreword Prabha Sridevan

Prabha Sridevan

Main Findings

General Information about the Surveyees

Work Status and Earning Capacity

Family Status and Lifestyle

Spousal and Child Support and the Dowry System

Social Status, Mobility, Skills and Decision-Making

Findings from Different Cities

Conclusion and Recommendations


This important study takes up an issue that has been neglected for far too long in Indian social science research as well as activism: the extremely dire conditions faced by separated and divorced women in India, and the abysmally inadequate legal entitlements generally obtained by them… The 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… This study is a critical intervention in an important area that deserves to be widely read and acted upon with urgency.

Jayati Ghosh
Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

In a studied manner, the author has covered every legal aspect that relates to maintenance to be provided to women of di-erent religions in India. The study consciously looks ahead of the previous body of work available on this subject. In doing so, the study [does] not… [merely] limit itself to pointing out the various lacunae existing in the present legal framework, but also o-ers viable and e-ective solutions to mitigate this evil by ­lling the vacuum existing in this area.

Justice (Retd) Ajit Prakash Shah

The present study on the economic rights of divorced and separated women in India shall prove to be a landmark study. . . As a socially perceived, recognized and justiciable category, divorced and separated women in India occupy a grey zone… The study rightly refrains from both valorizing the institution of marriage and from taking the shape of being an ode to victimhood. It explores the possibilities that open up in the new life that a divorced and separated woman seeks to construct, the everyday negotiation of daily challenges, as well as her encounter with the deep-seated structural prejudices which restrain her from availing of legal options in pursuit of her aspirations… The sense of disquiet this study leaves you with is to be welcomed if a beginning is to be made in the search for answers.

Indu Agnihotri
Director, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi

[The book] 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...her conclusions are based on the qualitative as well the considerable number of her sample... 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.
The Sunday Guardian

The book aims to meticulously document the experiences of women who are separated or were deserted and look at the manner in which they live with their children and at their rights and entitlements in marital homes.


This book marks a significant contribution to the body of Knowledge in gender and legal studies by presenting detailed and disaggregated data by social strata, religion and region...Singh sheds light on a wider range of issues such as work and income, separation and extended families, causes of separation and divorce, vale of housework, stress and anxiety levels, loss of career opportunities, ownership of property, other assets, stridhan and dowry...makes a strong case for legal reform and strengthening the civil law.... Overall, this is a highly informative book about the stark reality of separated and divorced women’s lives in India and challenges the constraints they face, both in marital and natal families before and after separation.

Gender, Technology and development

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