The number of broken families is on the rise in the country. The number of divorces is the highest in Dhaka. Last year, a divorce was registered every 40 minutes on average in Dhaka. The number is rising outside Dhaka as well.
Women are applying more for divorce. The cases of settlement after divorce appeals are less than 5 per cent. This was revealed in an analysis of the information from the two city corporations of Dhaka and the office of Dhaka district registrar.
The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961 is still in force in case of divorce. According to the law, the application for divorce has to be sent to the office of the respective mayoral offices in Dhaka, subject to the permanent address of the wife. The appeal gets registered there.
The figures of the two city corporations show that a total of 13,288 divorce applications were submitted in 2022. Of those, some 7,698 applications were submitted at the office Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and 5,590 applications in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC).
As such, the number of divorces recorded in a day stands at 37 on average in Dhaka, that is a divorce in every 40 minutes. The number of divorce applications submitted in the months of January and February this year is 2,488.
More than 12,000 appeals for divorce were registered in 2020 and 2021 as well. According to the figures of the mayoral office of the two cities in Dhaka, the number of divorce applications submitted in 2020 was 12,513 and it was 14,659 in 2021. A total of 52,964 divorces were registered in Dhaka in the last four years.
The figure of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics also shows that the cases of divorce are rising, especially among educated couples.
The BBS report titled 'Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics, 2021' says the rate of divorce has been rising for the last 15 years. The rate is the highest in Rajshahi division and the lowest in Sylhet.
Cases of settlement are rare
After receiving the divorce application the authorities send a settlement notice to both the applicant and defender. The authority does not have any liability if the two parties fail to reach a settlement. The divorce becomes effective if neither party compromises or withdraws the appeal within 90 days of submission.
Regional nirbahi (executive) officers are responsible authorities in this regard in the city corporation area. They send the settlement notices. Some 5,590 people appealed for divorce in the DNCC in 2022. However, the number of cases where the sides involved came to a settlement is only 128, which is only 2 per cent of the total number of applications submitted.
City corporation officials say that in most cases the husband or wife apply for divorce after finalising the decisions. In most of the cases, the defendant does not respond to the divorce notice. Even if they do, they cannot reach a settlement in most cases. Therefore, the divorce becomes effective automatically within 90 days of appealing.
The scenario is no different outside of Dhaka. The Barishal City Corporation could not provide a full statistics in this regard.
According to the partial data it provided, from July 2022 to March this year, the authorities tried to settle some 197 divorce petitions and succeeded only in four of them, which is only 2 per cent of the total number of applications.
Women are appealing more for divorce
Data from two city corporations show women are filing more applications for divorce with wives filing seven out of 10 applications.
There were 7,698 cases of divorce registered in DSCC in 2022 with women filing 5,383 applications, which is 70 per cent of the total. The scenario in DNCC is also the same as women appealed for 65 per cent of total divorce applications in 2022.
Officials of both city corporations said previously society’s attitude was very hostile to divorced women. Even their own families were reluctant to provide them shelter. Now, awareness has increased. Families are also extending a hand to save their daughters from torture in family life. Sense of dignity among women also increases along with financial independence.
The picture outside Dhaka is not different. Women also appeal for divorce more than men. However, this data is not recorded separately at all registrar office and city corporations. According to data from Barishal City Corporation, women filed 131 divorce applications and men filed 76 applications from July 2022 to March this year.
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) provides legal counsel to people seeking divorce. ASK director Nina Goswami told Prothom Alo majority of married women are victim of physical and mental abuse in their husband's family. When this increases too much there is no option but to decide for a divorce. Among those who are educated and self-respecting, they can decide easily, she added.
People involved in divorce process said there is a connection between divorce and family torture. According to a BBS survey conducted several years ago, eight in 10 married women become victim of abuse one way or another. Torture in family increased amid general holiday during the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
According to survey released by the non-government organisation Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) in May 2020, many women who never face abuse before also became victim of a torture at that time.
‘Lack of mutual understanding’
Lawyers keep form for divorce application ready. They only change name and addresses and the rest remains almost the same. There were rarely any difference. As a result, reasons that were stated in the divorce application form of the city corporation are almost same.
‘Lack of mutual understanding’ is cited as the reason in almost all the divorce applications. Other reasons include family dispute, mental abuse, extramarital affairs, dowry, drug addition, separation from expatriate husband, sexual dysfunction, doubt, indifference and conflict of personalities.
A woman, from capital’s Mohammadpur, got divorce in 2021. Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, she said, “Family arranged our marriage and we were living together despite both having different personalities. After several years of marriage, my husband fell for another woman and divorced me.”
They have a three-year-old daughter and a lawsuit over alimony is pending at the family court.
Divorce on the rise outside Dhaka
Divorce has been on the rise in Chattogram over the last five years. As many as 5,976 divorces took place in 2022, which was the highest cases in those years.
The number of divorces increased to 7,215 in 2022 from 6,967 in 2019 in entire Rangpur district including the city corporation area.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Rangpur district registrar Abduds Salam Pramanik said there has been a rise in divorce due to several reasons, including disagreement between husband and wife and assaults. Another reason is extramarital affair. There is hardly any settlement after seeking a divorce, and even if it is settled families do not last long, he added.
Divorce has also been increasing in Mymenshing for the last three years. According to the district registrar office sources, 6,390 divorces took place in entire district in 2022 or about 18 divorce a day, while 5,532 and 5,911 divorces were recorded in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
There were 9,052 divorces in Khulna city in the last five years. About 4,000 of those divorces took place in the last two years while 500 divorces were recorded in the first three months of this year.
About the rise in the trend of separation, Fatema Rezina Iqbal, professor of sociology at Dhaka University, told Prothom Alo there has been a decline in tolerance in society. Issues like pressure of urban life, self-centrism, likes and dislikes of partners, unfulfilling of physical demand affect a conjugal relation.
Women are deciding for divorce after getting no respect in their family. Difference in cultural understanding between husband and wife is also getting bigger, Fatema Rezina said, adding that a partner should be chosen carefully even if it is a settled marriage or a love marriage, and a cultural homogeneity is also necessary.
* Prothom Alo’s staff correspondents in Chattogram, Khulna, Barishal, Rangpur and Mymensingh contributed to this report
** This report originally appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu and Hasanul Banna