Friday, June 06, 2008

Divorce increase among Christians in Goa

Spero nNews has a story profiling the rise in divorc in the largely Catholic state of Goa (a former Portuguese colony).

Divorce as a whole is rising in India, but is still negligible compared to the US (I'm not sure of the statistic ... but it's well below 2% I believe).

The reasons are socio-economic: greater opportunities for financial independence for women, as well as a slow cultural transformation, especially in the cities, of the nature of the joint-family, and the expectations that go into marriage.

Most marriages in India, regardless of religion or class, are still arranged by families, though "love marriages" are also increasing in number, as well as social acceptability, though I suspect acceptability and class are related.

The idea that marriage is a relationship that is based on romantic love and individual fulfillment is also gaining ground.

The bewildering maze of Indian family law is also evolving, with reforms in all three major family laws (for Christians, Muslims and Hindus, as well as the Indian Marriage Act -- in India, one can choose to get married under the religious act or the civil act) to protect the rights of women.

All of this contributes to rising divorce rates, though divorce still carries a huge social stigma, especially for women.

The libertarian Indian blogger, Amit Varma puts forth the standard case for why divorce is rising (emancipation of women, the changing socio-economic realities brought about by technology and the pill) and why these are good thing: they are better for women, bottom line.

The thing is, as Western experience shows, divorce is absolutely horrible for children.

From a Christian perspective, one should, I think, recognize that the ideal marriage that the Church upholds often remains an ideal, especially in patriarchal cultures. Civil separation for cases of abuse, for instance, should be a no-brainer. At the same time, I think, we should properly study the evolving nature of marriage and identify the central unchanging realities -- the union of a man and woman to provide a stable and loving environment for the rearing of children -- because most historical or cross-cultural studies of marriage are done from the perspective precisely of emphasizing the cultural relativity of marriage, and thereby undermining marriage: that it is purely a social construct, that can, therefore, be deconstructed and redefined at will.

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