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      Volume 10 |Issue 16 | April 22, 2011 |


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Strange divorces, are they?

Shah Husain Imam

Sandra and Alraro Torres until elections do us part. Photo: AFP

A divorce quite like it has never perhaps happened before. Since it has, and through a court's approval, a precedent is set. That is likely to be replicated in an identical but perhaps rarefied situation.

It's all centred around the Presidential election in Guatemala due in September. First lady Sandra Torres sought divorce from President Alvaro in a court of law to be eligible as a candidate for presidency. She needed to do it to sidestep a constitutional ban on candidacy of presidential relatives. The court after having initially put the case on hold, has finally given her a go-ahead. Quickly dubbed as 'a fraudulent political trick played on the people' by her opponents, the divorce is starkly expedient.

One has heard of marriages of convenience, the worst being perhaps the so-called contract marriages; now the world is treated to a divorce of convenience.

This may appear to be a cruel disowning of a long-standing marriage. Although formalised, most likely through mutual consent, that by itself cannot dignify the act. For, this is matter ditching the mind a dinosaurian appetite for power and position ultimately getting its feed.

Perhaps it is all a joke, nothing serious should be read into it. To Alvaro and Sandra, this is just keeping the job within the family. At heart, they must be treating the divorce as a mere technical necessity. It does not forfeit their rights to be in each other's company, in their private as well as public lives. They might have settled for a reversal of roles, with her so-called ex-husband perhaps curtseying to her in the event she becomes the president.

But for all her antics, supposing at the end of the day, she is not elected president. Then what? To be sure, it would be an edifying anti-climax, a moralising lesson for political greed and addiction to power, people in high position can seldom shake off. Sandra Torres may have risked loss of public face through undermining the sanctity of marriage.

For Sandra and her now ex-spouse it is at best a calculated risk and at worst betraying an insult to public intelligence.

This is the exact opposite of what Edward the VIII did in Britain, sacrificially loftier perhaps than the classic love of Casanova, arguably the all time greatest lover in human history. Edward married the divorcee American nurse Wallis Simpson knowing full well the consequence of having to lose the British throne. So intensely in love with Simpson was he that he even spurned a suggestion to divorce her to be the King.

Lesser mortals have broken up marriages on frivolous grounds: a man becoming allergic to wife's sweat or, a wife deciding not to put up with a snoring husband. A woman even filed for divorce because her husband was 'eating too much', a crime she refused to be an accomplice of. A Saudi man divorced his newly-wed wife almost immediately after the marriage because the woman's brother took a photograph of the couple together.

Strange divorce customs are known to exist among certain communities. To be divorced, Eskimos simply have to 'stop living together'. Aboriginal women in Australia can circumvent the difficulty of an agreed divorce by marrying some one else. They are able to do so, it is gathered, when already married. That is all very sophisticated and liberal from so-called backward societies. Perhaps such communities are capable of genial breakups because they are not complicated. They are greener horns among hard-horned species.

In ancient times in Turkey 'men had to agree to provide coffee to their wives; if they failed to, she could divorce him.' This is a height of decency that perhaps could be tried out to lighten the burden of gender discrimination.


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