Bangalore/New Delhi: Male rights groups working for "gender-neutral" family laws will lobby with the government to review the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill of 2010 as it claims that in its present form it is discriminatory to men.
"We are going to meet members of parliament, starting with Law Minister (DV) Sadananda Gowda next week, to convince them that the government should reintroduce the bill in the new format as suggested by the male rights groups," Kumar V Jahgirdar, president of Bangalore-based Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), told IANS.
The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Aug 4, 2010, but is yet to be listed for discussion. It seeks to amend the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 to provide irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a new ground for granting a divorce.
Jahgirdar said the bill, in its present form, outrightly violated the essence of Article 15 of the Indian constitution, which prohibits discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion or gender.
"There is no protection for children to be connected to both parents through shared parenting plan as there is a presumption that children will remain only with the mother. Studies show single parenting is adverse for the welfare of the child," he said.
Swarup Sarkar, founder of the Delhi chapter of NGO Save Family Foundation, said the law, if passed in its present form, will be misused as there is no time frame for the marriage to be sustained to claim maintenance.
"It`s also unfair that the separated woman will claim for the estranged husband`s ancestral property even in case of a short-duration marriage," Sarkar told IANS.
Yashna Chawla, a Bangalore-based family counsellor, said the bill only focusses on the married woman and does not consider the problems faced by others in the family in case of a separation.
"All the property of the husband that he currently owns and his ancestral property will be divided between the husband and the wife, but what about the man`s unmarried sisters and his mother?" Chawla asked while speaking to IANS.
Jahgirdar said the government should call for public opinion before reframing the bill.
"In failed marriages, misuse of section 498 (A) of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) dealing with harassing a married woman is an open secret. This amendment will be another tool and further distress families," he said.
The memorandum prepared by CRISP, which will be presented to the law minister and the MPs, seeks amendment of the bill`s section 13-D.
This section specifies that only the wife could claim financial hardship while seeking maintenance.
"All other maintenance cases filed by the wife like under section 125 of the Cr PC (Criminal Procedure Code) and the Domestic Violence Act should not be allowed to continue if the bill is passed in the present form. The wife should not be allowed to get multiple benefits," Jahgirdar contended.
Moreover, the bill has no mention about the custody of children in post-separation cases, he added. Studies conducted by CRISP, which was invited by a parliamentary standing committee to give its views on the rights and welfare of children, show heavy dropouts from schools due to matrimonial disputes.