If divorce in Sri Lanka had the same level of social acceptance as in America, our divorce statistics would be off the chart. Comparing Sri Lanka’s divorce statistics to that of America leads to a sense of false social superiority.

A low divorce rate is not an indicator of marital success. It is an indicator of BOTH marital success and a society’s willingness to suffer unhappiness in order to conform to social norms. In the U.S. more and more people are unwilling to be unhappy. And western societies tend to accept and support divorcees while we shun them and frown upon them, adding insult to injury. Divorce is blasphemy. People remain locked in unhappy marriages and children grow up under the influence of unhappy marriages. A civilized split is better than family strife. (It is better to seek statistics than trust the television: not every divorce in the America narrowly averts murder. Sometimes it is just “irreconcilable differences”)

But there may be another force at work. Americans in particular seem less and less willing to compromise and accept flaws in a potential partner. Many Americans are single because their standards of Mr. and Ms. Right are too high. But that part of the equation is not my concern. My concern is how the statistics lie about one of our most serious social problems. I will go so far as to say that the majority of Sri Lankan marriages are unhappy. Even if we cannot be certain of that, we can be certain of this: most Sri Lankan married WOMEN are unhappy. It is often the wife who is left “holding the short end of the stick” in a marriage. Also, in our Indian/Hindu-descendant culture, even after a divorce or breakup it is the woman who is often considered at fault. Surprisingly, women themselves perpetuate this system. Until she herself has to face family strife or divorce, the average Sri Lankan woman is the chief component in the system of ostracism against divorcees.


7 Responses to Divorce

  1. R says:

    What you say is mostly true for rural villages in SL where a lot of people are addicted to booze and beat their wives on a daily basis.

    But I doubt whether women are victimized in Colombo…. In any marriage the flare goes after a first two or three years. Then of course the relationship is more of a friendship. The reason why marriages have worked throughout civilization is that the children make the indifferences of the parents to go away and bring them together.

    The reason why in divorce rate in Western countries is high is because children are taught to be independent from a very young age, so divorce is not a social problem.

    In any case we should let the women make the first move. No regrets.

  2. Thamindu says:

    The laws of this country with respect to divorce are the real issue… contrary to all the social stigma surrounding divorce most people don’t get legally divorced as the grounds required by our courts to grant one are extremely narrow. I am not a lawyer and may be mistaken but as far as I know there are only 3 reasons that our courts accept as sufficient grounds for divorce:

    1. Malicious dissertion
    2. Incurable importency
    3. Adultery

    So basically if a woman is being beaten by her husband and she then leaves… he is the one who has to file for divorce stating malicious dissertion.

  3. Roshana says:

    I could not agree more with this article. I believe if two people are unhappy with each other, they should get a divorce, society be damned. U live only once, might as well make the best of it and be happy!

    But i disagree with Thamindu’s post. Although I have no facts to disprove him, I do not think in this day and age, a wife just takes the beating with no other recourse available. I’m quite sure a woman can appeal and get a divorce if she is unhappy.

  4. suren says:

    Actually, there are other reasons why women stay in unhappy marriages, in addition to the fear of being ostracised by society etc.

    The first is economic dependency. So women have to grin and bear whatever is dished out because of the druken husband, unlike in the West.

    Also there is a certain level of added vulnerability for women, either living alone or when trying to manage their affairs independently. This is because at some level women are still not accepted as being equal to men in certain contexts. For eg, in many workplaces, women are not given assignments that include extensive travel etc, Women also are willing to tacitly accept this setup, thinking that they are better off. The downside is that this in turn gives women a lesser opportunity to be involved in the decision making processes as equals. This implies that women still have second class status, and are treaed as such, this creates a situation where women have to have male support to be taken seriously. You can easily see how a woman who goes to a police station alone is perceived.

  5. Amy says:

    My boyfriend is Sri Lankan and I am Australian. He is married but they have been seperated for about 5 years and she is the one who left him, but now she will not sign the papers for a divorce etc. Anyone know of a way?

  6. judy says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with this post and all the comments too. Being a married woman myself, I know what it’s all about. My parents opposed my marriage heavily because it was ‘a love marriage between different castes and religion’. something heavily frowned upon. That was problem number 1. Then, after marriage I realised I had to conform to my husband’s standards and lose all individuality. I wasn’t happy with that arrangement. but I kept going because of the divorce taboo in our society.

    After 2 years, many arguments, complete lack of confidence to face the society and countless demeaning incidents, I’m still here. Maybe I’ll gather up the courage to leave one day, but right now, I’m co-dependent in finances, can’t escape the thought that divorce means utter shame and simply can’t go back to parents who didn’t set a good example to me themselves. They had a bad marriage and they stayed together for over 25 years! I don’t know how long the bickering, angered insults and sacrifices on my part will continue. But, until that day when I finally pack up and leave, I’ll be rolling in BS with no way to stop it.

  7. Diana says:

    Amy, are you being fooled by your boyfriend? Make sure he’s not lying about her not signing…..If he’s been separated 5 yrs that is grounds for divorce in Australia. If living in SL, if she deserted him, then that’s grounds in that country.

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