New legal provisions incite men to file for divorce

Kathmandu, August 1

Number of men seeking divorce in Kathmandu District Court has increased remarkably as provisions in new Civil and Criminal Code Act-2017 allow men to directly file for divorce at court.

Previously, only women were allowed to file divorce case at court while men had to first register the case at local level, where local government authorities made efforts at reconciliation between wife and husband.

It was only in the event of failure by local body to achieve reconciliation between husband and wife within a year that the case was transferred to the district court.

Tedious and lengthy procedure in the past had discouraged men to seek divorce.

But, since the new act came into effect, number of men filing divorce papers at the court has overwhelmingly increased. Statistics maintained by the court show that as many as 937 men sought divorce in the fiscal 2018-19.

According to the court registrar Ananda Shrestha, only two or three cases of divorce forwarded by the local government were received by the court until the enactment of the new law.

While the number of divorce cases at the court increased radically in 2018-19, the Judicial Committee of Kathmandu Metropolitan City recorded zero cases of divorce during the same fiscal. The committee had recorded a total of 67 divorce cases, mostly from men in the previous fiscal, 2017-18.

Hari Maya Ghimire, law enforcement officer at KMC, said the previous law had a provision of special protection for women, making it difficult for men to file divorce cases. The old law had drawn criticism in view of equal rights to men and women.

“As the new legal provisions guaranteed equal rights to men and women, men started flocking to the court for divorce,” she said.

The new law stipulated that any of the spouses may seek divorce at his/her will anytime, without seeking consent of his/her partner. A husband may move the court for divorce if his wife has been staying separately for at least three consecutive years; if she has ostracised him or has not provided him with food and shelter; if the husband has suffered physical and mental torture from his wife, and if the wife is proven guilty of extramarital relationship.

Registrar Shrestha said some of the reasons for more men seeking divorce were consequence of foreign employment, influence of the western lifestyle and misuse of social media. “Most of the men filed divorce case following extramarital affairs of their wives,” he said.

Ghimire said more men wanted divorce due to their relationship with other women. “They just want divorce to marry their lovers,” she said, adding that economic independence of women coupled with their increased educational qualification, in recent years, have also women to opt for divorce.

Although the number of men seeking divorce grew significantly, the number of women filing divorce case is still higher. Out of total 3,669 divorce papers, almost 75 per cent (2732 cases) were filed by women in the fiscal 2018-19.

Despite more men opting for divorce at the court, there is no wide gap in the total number of fiscal-wise divorce cases. A total of 3,502 cases were registered in the fiscal 2017-18, 2,895 in 2016-17, 2,451 in 2015-16, 2,256 in 2014-15, and 2,108 in 2013-14.

Radheshyam Adhikari, a lawmaker and senior advocate, who was also a member of drafting committee of the new law, said rising number of men filing divorce case should be taken as a normal phenomenon as the society is becoming more liberal.

“We must not try to stop a man or woman who wishes to end his/her marital relationship legally. We have to break the clutches of tradition that force a couple to live together even when they loathe conjugal life,” he said.