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Church mandates pre-marriage counseling as divorces skyrocket

Divorce rates leap by 400 percent in one Indian state

Church mandates pre-marriage counseling as divorces skyrocket
A growing number of couples say they find the marital state intolerable reporter, Thiruvananthapuram

January 22, 2013

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"To hell with marriage. It has ruined my life and screwed up my career,” says Robin Joseph, 27.

Joseph, a software engineer, belongs to new generation in the southern Indian state of Kerala where crumbling marriages are becoming part of life.

Joseph married a colleague in 2010 and filed a divorce petition after six months. The global IT company in Bangalore where he was working asked him to leave after his personal problems surfaced at the workplace.

Now he is working in an Indian IT company for less pay.

“I’m paying for my mistake of choosing the wrong partner,” he says.  

Joseph is part of a growing trend. Divorces in Kerala have increased by an astonishing 400 percent in a decade. 

“We are worried about the growing number of divorces among Catholic families. The number has shot up in recent years,” said Father Mathew Kochupurackal, who heads the Appellate Marriage Tribunal of the Syro-Malabar Church based in Kakanad, which covers five archdioceses.

“The number of marriage cases declared null in this tribunal in 2004 was 73, while in 2012 alone it was 275,” Father Kochupurackal said.

The grounds for separation also have changed, he said. “Earlier major grounds were physical incapacity, deceit and force. Now, along with these grounds, many cite psycho-sexual problems.”

The Church has taken several steps to prevent divorce, including compulsory pre-marital courses, he said. Seminars and counseling for young couples have started in a number of dioceses. Sexual morality has also become a topic in high school catechism classes, he said. 

But to his dismay, more and more couples are opting for divorce.

“I married a techie working in the US,” said Delma Thomas. "He was never interested in normal sex. When I could not cope with him, I opted for divorce."

Delma, who married another divorcee recently, said that when she told his parents about his problem, they asked her to bear with him "forever.” 

She had to wait for almost eight years to get a divorce decree from the court after her husband refused to grant her consent, she said.

India has 2.6 million divorced women, authorities say.

“It seems Kerala is in divorce mode. Every week around 1,100 new divorce petitions are filed in the court. It shows something is wrong with new generation families.  It’s a dangerous trend,” said M.K. Muneer, state minister for social welfare.

But according to K. Pramod, a sexologist based in Kochi, economic freedom has helped many women get out of an undesired married life.

Nisha Jacob, who heads a marriage bureau in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, says divorcees are gaining in her business. “We are getting several queries from divorcee women seeking partners. They have clear preferences and majority of them are working women.” 

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