For too long, the South Asian community has been guilty of shunning divorcees to the point that many would rather allow toxic relationships to fester than upset the social order.

What we need to do as a society is destigmatize divorce, highlight its need, and how, for many people, it can be a celebration.

IHDS data shows that while an increasing proportion of women are now delaying marriage, the mean age of marriage for women in India continues to remain low. Photo Source:

Many fail to realize that by ostracizing the mere notion of divorce, mismatched couples end up stuck in unhappy relations. Our parents fail to realize that some couples simply cannot reconcile their differences when they match make. In such cases, divorces offer a much-needed escape. Divorces need to be seen as not the end of something but the beginning of something new. 

Why destigmatization is important

The stigma behind the word divorce or separation needs to be removed in order to have a community with healthy, happy, and thriving relationships. 

A common occurrence that many see firsthand is a woman trapped in an abusive marriage. May it be physical, physiological, or sexual, abuse is abuse. These women, unfortunately, cannot even fathom the idea of leaving, since it is so ghastly to the public.

Too often, a woman will attempt to return home to her parents. However, they will dismiss her valid concerns immediately, telling her to handle her own home. Parents who do this, unfortunately, fail to recognize that a daughter does not lose her child category just because she has another family she is a part of. She is still a person with rights and deserves to be able to live in safety and peace.

This is a systemic failure by the pre-set social norms. It is the failure of families to choose society over their children. This issue is deeply rooted in conservative South Asian mindsets, therefore, the taboo persists. 

What the public needs to understand is that abuse in a relationship is not a family problem. It’s a societal problem. We need to remove individualistic mindsets and aim to rise together collectively. Only then, with collective support, can women find the courage to leave and begin anew. 

What destigmatization can lead to

Statistically, according to National Domestic Violence Hotline, a woman will try to leave her abuser on average seven times. Seven times before she eventually can do it.

But let’s take a moment to imagine what would happen if we destigmatized divorce and separation, provided a safe and healthy space for women to return to, and gave them access to employment and other resources. I wonder how many attempts it would take then… 

On the other side, there are women who are eventually able to leave. They live separately and lead their own lives whilst simultaneously co-parenting with an ex-partner. These are “invisible marriages, as coined by Parijat Deshpande, a clinically trained therapist in California. These sorts of arrangements do provide benefits such as financial and social support. However, f we destigmatized divorce altogether, then women will be able to happily divorce without fear of becoming a social pariah.

In addition, the destigmatization of divorce allows society to focus on encouraging women to pursue their own happiness instead of trying to make them outcasts for doing what they believe is best for themselves. Destigmatization would lead women to feel encouraged to chase various career paths and possible advancement in their own education. In turn, it would set them up as financially stable in case of needing a separation.

In the end, the message is: let women divorce. Let women celebrate their newfound independence. Give women the support they deserve and need. Give women their autonomy and the freedom to choose their happiness. From this, we can empower, educate, and enlighten women. Once we empower our women, we empower our children and we build a better future for us all.

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