Social changes and women-initiated divorce in Dhaka, Bangladesh: Gaining or Loosing Power?
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The study attempts to explore the nature of women-initiated divorce in Dhaka, considering the social changes of Bangladesh. The study focuses particularly on the urban middle class women as the scope of the study. By employing a qualitative in-depth interview method with the combination of Focus Group Discussions and participant observation, the present study critically explores the perspectives of divorce of middle class women from the point of view of their own experience, their understanding of marital disruptions and the consequences of divorce on them. The study finds that a mix of traditional and modern values and expectations persists in the urban middle class women in Dhaka. Similar tendency follows in the reasoning of their marital discords, which leads them to seek divorce. The reasons of divorce are multidimensional for the women. The study discloses many traditional reasons of divorce such as dowry, husbands’ failure in provider role, presence of alcohol and drug addiction, infertility, sexual incompatibility and physical violence, and many modern reasons of divorce such as value clash, husband’s lack of love and commitment, lack of freedom, obstacle in selfdevelopment through education, husband’s involvement in extra-marital affairs and emotional torture to be push factors of divorce. While, socio-economic factors like education and employment opportunity, legal development in relation to the possibility to divorce and the presence of children are found to be pull factors of divorce. The study also finds that by leaving abusive marriages, women gain several individual positive changes, such as escape from physical and emotional torture, a good career, and ability to provide a better environment to children. But the post-divorce consequences are severe for women in relation to social reactions of their divorce. The study finds that women are faced by social exclusion and stigma, harassment in working place, difficulties in a second marriage, downswing changes in lifestyle in the face of social expectations, and psychological and physiological disturbance in post-divorce situations.