November 24, 2015 2:29:34 am
Pre-nuptial agreements in India may be less about a mutual contract that protects the richer of the two spouses, irrespective of gender, and more about ensuring maintenance for the woman in the eventuality that the marriage ends.
Woman and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi told The Indian Express that the government is working on introducing the concept of a pre-nuptial agreement which would be different in an Indian context from what is practiced in some western countries.
“Pre-nup happens mostly among rich people abroad because some multi-millionaire wants to protect his or her assets in case the marriage ends. Here, it will be to ensure maintenance for the woman in case she is abandoned by her husband, battered or chooses to leave her husband for some reason. Presently, since there are no hard and fast rules on maintenance, women have to fight it out in courts for years on end,” she said.
She said the agreement would define the maintenance that the wife is entitled to in terms of a per cent share of the spouse’s earnings over a specific period.
Moreover, unlike the prevailing voluntary nature of the pre-nuptial agreement, the ministry is looking into ways to make it mandatory and legally enforceable on all. On Monday, the WCD ministry held the first of its many national consultations with legal experts and gender activists for firming up the policy.
“In India, marriage is considered a sacred union and most people would think that having a pre-nup would turn it into a financial affair,” she said.
The minister added that at present none of the personal laws provide for ample maintenance for women post-divorce. “The Muslim law has ‘mehr’ where the bride is paid some money at the time of marriage. But often the amount is so small that by the time the marriage ends, it is of no use. This is the reason why we want to define maintenance for everyone in terms of percentages,” she said. Also, pre-nups in India will look at issues such as share of property for the wife in case of the breakdown of marriage or death of husband.
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