New Delhi: While non-marriage remains extremely rare in India, where less than 1% of all women aged 45-49 have never been married, the number of divorcees has doubled over the past two decades, revealed a report from United Nations released on Tuesday. The report titled "Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World" highlighted that despite increasing rates of divorce, only 1.1% of women are divorced, with those in urban areas making up the largest proportion in India.
The report said that as the women’s rights have advanced over the past decades, families around the world have become a place of love and solidarity but also one where fundamental human rights violations and gender inequalities persist.
The report findings point out that the age of marriage has increased in all regions, while birth rates have declined, and women have increased economic autonomy;
Globally, a little over one third (38%) of households are couples living with children; and extended families (including other relatives) are almost as common (27%).
The vast majority of lone-parent families, which are 8% of households, are led by women, often juggling paid work, child-rearing and unpaid domestic work. Same-sex families are increasingly visible in all regions.
As the report shows, families can be places of care, but can also bring conflict, inequality and, far too often, violence. Today, three billion women and girls live in countries where rape within marriage is not explicitly criminalized. But injustice and violations take other forms as well. In one out of five countries girls do not have the same inheritance rights as boys, while in others (a total of 19 countries) women are required by law to obey their husbands. Around one third of married women in developing countries report having little or no say over their own healthcare.
Women continue to enter the labour market in large numbers, but marriage and motherhood reduce their labour force participation rates, and the income and benefits that come with it. Globally, just over half of married women aged 25-54 are in the labour force, compared to two-thirds of single women, and 96% of married men, new data in the report shows. A major driver of these inequalities is the fact that women continue to do three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men in the absence of affordable care services.
“Around the world, we are witnessing concerted efforts to deny women’s agency and their right to make their own decisions in the name of protecting ‘family values’. Yet, we know through research and evidence that there is no ‘standard’ form of family, nor has there ever been," said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “This report counters that pushback by showing that families, in all their diversity, can be critical drivers of gender equality, provided decision-makers deliver policies rooted in the reality of how people live today, with women’s rights at their core, she said.
It also puts a spotlight on the challenges that women and their families face when they migrate. Unjust regulations mean that not all families have the right to family reunification and they are often excluded from access to public services. When women’s migration status is tied to their partners, it can be difficult or impossible for them to escape violent relationships.
The report calls on policymakers, activists and people in all walks of life to transform families into places of equality and justice—where women can exercise choice and voice, and where they have physical safety and economic security.
Some of the recommendations put forth by the report to include amending and reforming family laws to ensure that women can choose whether, when and who to marry; that provide the possibility of divorce if needed; and enable women’s access to family resources.