Indian divorce in South Africa rates rise
Experts say it’s women who want out of marriage
24 July 2011 – Sunday Tribune – Devaksha Moodley
DIVORCES among Indians are on the rise, with more women filing suits and being caught cheating on their husbands.
The popularity of social networking sites and online pornography are also said to be leading more Indian couples to the divorce court.
In the past five years, the percentage of Indian divorces in the country has increased from five percent to 6.2 percent, according to Statistics SA – which correlates with the increase of users on Facebook. Of the 1 610 Indian divorces in 2009, 851 were filed by women.
Bertus Preller, a divorce and family law attorney, attributed this to Indian women now being more independent and secure – financially and socially.
Moreover, Rakhi Beekrum, a counselling psychologist at eThekwini Hospital and Heart Centre, said that “contrary to popular belief, it is not always the male partner who is unfaithful”.
Women are using modern technology to hook up, including Facebook, Twitter and internet sites. Rather than taking place behind closed doors, like they used to, affairs are flourishing in cyberspace.
Psychologists and lawyers are convinced this is one reason for the rise in divorces among Indian couples.
Beekrum, who mainly works in marital therapy, said: “A growing number of Indian couples, married and single, are seeking therapy because of infidelity linked to social networking sites and internet pornography.”
There are about 4 million active users on Facebook in South Africa, with the number having increased by 40 percent a year in recent years.
During this period, the divorce rate for Indian couples has also gone up.
Preller said he considered Facebook the unrivalled leader in “turning virtual reality into real-life divorce drama”.
Attorney Fawzia Khan said a client of hers had been horrified to discover her husband’s relationship status on Facebook was single and “looking for a relationship”.
Khan added that more Indian women were complaining about their husbands’ use of pornographic websites.
Beekrum said that when a partner felt his or her needs were not being met, they looked for satisfaction elsewhere.
“Internet pornography and social networking sites are easily accessible, so many people turn to them when unhappy in their marriages.”
However, psychologists say that internet pornography and cyberspace affairs are merely symptomatic of a problem that already exists in a relationship.
Sarojini Naidoo, a counselling psychologist, said that couples needed to look at what was causing them to spend less time with each other and more time on the internet.
On whether couples could overcome such betrayal, Naidoo said “communication is key”.
Beekrum said counselling could work if both spouses were willing to put in the effort.
Khan said: “One of the spinoffs for lawyers is the availability of evidence, which can be obtained through the social networking sites and used against a spouse in the divorce process.”
Such evidence can also be used in custody battles.
Preller cited the example of a father forcing his son to “defriend” his mother on Facebook “to establish some sort of parental alienation”.
Most of the Indian couples getting divorced are in their Thirties and have children.
Beekrum said: “While divorce used to be the last recourse, many Indian couples nowsee it as a primary option.”
Regarding cyber-adultery, Preller said that the degree of betrayal would vary from one individual to the next, but it had to be borne in mind that physical contact was not the only thing that defined an affair in the world of new media.
Khan said: “Some clients have complained that even where no intimacy is involved it creates an environment of distrust that ultimately leads to the marriage failing.”
The increase in divorces among Indian South Africans indicates that women are no longer standing idly by in unhappy marriages.
The higher divorce rate also suggests that the consequences of seeking instant gratification on the internet are dire.