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Times of India
13 November 2008
By Swati Shinde
Pune, India

A recent study found that alcoholism and extra–marital affairs are the main reasons why men desert their wives
Deserted Women Deserted Women
Deserted or cast–away women are often victims of alcoholic husbands or his extra–marital affairs, found a study conducted by the Women Studies Centre of the University of Pune in association with a city–based NGO Society for Promoting Participative Eco–System Management (SOPPECOM). Disturbingly, the study also found that these women are also neglected by the society after their separation.

The study also found that an astounding 99 per cent of these women never marry again, while their husbands often re–marry within a month of separation.

SOPPECOM and the WSC carried out this study in Daund taluka and the Ghole Road ward. “A few studies have tried to understand the plight of these women’s, but despite their growing number, very little systematic work has been done to understand the extent of their loneliness and the forms of exploitation,” said Seema Kulkarni, a SOPPECOM research fellow. She added that while working with these women, many groups discovered that they had been subjected to extreme violence and were ultimately deserted.

The study was carried in two stages. General data was collected from Daund and Ghole Road ward in the first stage of the study. In the second stage, these women were categorised on the basis of reasons for their desertion for a detailed analysis.

It was found that of the 5,558 total households, 329 women were deserted in Daund, though the number was a little less at 240 in the Ghole Road ward area.

It is interesting to note here that the top reasons for desertion did not differ greatly in rural and urban Pune. In Pune city, husband’s alcoholism topped the chart for separation, followed by his extra–marital affairs. These reasons swapped the top spots in Daund. Fifty–two (20.47%) women in Daund left their husbands due to extra–marital affairs, while 51 (20.08%) said that extreme alcoholism made them end their relationship.

Kulkarni added that these are the exact reasons that were stated by women in Sangli in 2005, when the group had conducted a study there. “We noticed that the reasons for separation have not changed even after a gap of three years. More importantly, it has remained constant in urban and rural areas, both,” she said, adding that the group noticed a change in women’s expectations.

“There is a marked difference in women’s attitude and they are striving to lead a better life and a better relationship. They demand better treatment by their husbands and if these basic expectations are not met, they are willing to separate,” said Kulkarni, who was active during the Sangli survey carried out by SOPPECOM in association with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

“Women become a victim of the husband’s misbehavior and are not even in a position to challenge the reality. If she has to go and complain about her husband’s affair, where can she go? In fact, a woman was quoted as saying, ‘I went to my parents’ home for Diwali and when I returned, I saw my husband married to some other woman. She was employed and was contributing financially to the house, so I was thrown out’,” said Sneha Bhat, a research assistant, who has worked closely with this study.

Among other reasons, women said that mental and physical torture by the husband and his family; not being able to bear a male child or infertility; dowry demands; suspicion of infidelity and wife’s illness were among the various other reasons for separation.

Anagha Tambe, a WSC members involved with the study, said, “Unavailability of data and negligent documentation on the plight of deserted women triggered us to study their lives. These women have been ignored and shunned by the society for a long time. It has been found that they do not even receive much support from the society once they separate and they start leading an independent life. On the positive side, it has been noted that these women eventually learn to successfully fight all odds.”

The study which cut across caste and class in the rural area, was primarily carried out in slums in the urban area. It received tremendous support in data collection from local NGOs in Daund, including Navnirman Nyas, Pargao, Rashtrasant Tukdoji Krushi Gramvikas Aani Sanshodhan Sanshta, Rawangao (RTKGSS) and Pune Shahar Molkarin Sanghatana.

It was shocking when 99 per cent of the women surveyed confessed that they do not want to enter a second marriage ever. Some of the important reasons cited by these women were – children, social stigmas, doubts about being happy with the second marriage and most importantly, because they did not want to go through a similar experience again in their life.

Medha Thatte, general secretary of Pune Shahar Molkarin Sanghatna, who helped collect data from Pune city, said, “It was surprising to know that these women were quite adamant on not entering a second marriage. Not that there is dignity in marrying for the second time, yet, if their husbands can marry within a month of the separation, then so can these women.”

Vidyut Bhagwat, who retired as the director of Women’s Studies Centre this March was actively involved with this research and in fact has also written the preface of the study said, “We sample size over which we have conducted the survey is very small taking into consideration the magnitude of the issue. however, the problems and issues by and large gives a comprehensive picture. We have not touched the issue in a pity compassion framework, neither are we glorifying the institution of marriage here. We want the government to get actively involved towards gender issues and provide suitable welfare for these women. Things like property rights, division of children’s responsibility etc. needs interference by the government and separate laws should be instituted in this matter.”

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