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India: Shayara Bano seeks to ban the unruly practice of Muslim ‘Taalaq’ through Supreme Court

A woman from Uttarakhand has petitioned SC to ban triple Talaq, Polygamy and nikah halala

Shayara Bano- Benarnews

A soft-spoken woman, Shayara Bano is an unlikely poster girl for feminism.

But the 35-year-old’s petition in India’s Supreme Court seeking a ban on a practice that is outlawed in several countries – whereby a Muslim man can divorce his wife just by uttering the word “talaq (divorce)” three times – has put her at the forefront of a movement seeking to bring equal rights to women in a largely male-dominated Muslim society.

Triple talaq-
Triple talaq-

“I am no crusader. I just don’t want more women to undergo the pain and torture that I have had to face,” Bano told BenarNews from her parental house in Terrai in north India’s Uttarakhand state, about 250 km (155 miles) from Delhi.

In her petition filed in March, Bano sought a complete ban on triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala – where a divorced woman has to marry another man and then divorce him to remarry her former husband.

Bano said these practices should be deemed illegal and unconstitutional as they violate Articles 14 (equality before law), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, place of birth), 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution.

In India, where nearly 180 million Muslims constitute the largest minority in the country, there is no single civil law code for all of its 1.25 billion citizens. Muslim personal law is governed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which has resisted attempts to modernize its ostensibly Sharia-based laws and has vowed to challenge Bano’s petition.

According to Tahir Mahmood, former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, the practice of tripletalaq is an aberration that finds no mention in the Quran or Sharia. It is banned or not practiced in several Muslim countries, including Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, Tunisia, Turkey and Pakistan.

Even as Muslim rights activists and women’s groups from across the country are voicing support for Bano, the Supreme Court has given the Indian government and the AIMPLB until early May to respond her petition.

Dreams crushed

Bano, who holds a master’s degree in sociology, said she dreamed of becoming a teacher until she was deemed a suitable match for Rizwan Ahmed, a real estate agent from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh state, in 2002.

“He crushed all my dreams,” Bano said. “He wouldn’t even let me step out of the house, leave alone take up a job.”

Following the birth of her son, Irfan, 13, and daughter Muskan, 11, Bano said her husband forced her to undergo seven abortions. “This obviously took a toll on my health.”

In April 2015, Bano’s parents brought her, along with her two children, back to their house to help her recuperate.

“Three months later, my husband came. He took both my kids with him, saying he will come back for me. Since then, his phone has been switched off. I haven’t heard from him or my children,” Bano said.

On Oct. 10, Bano received a letter by post. “In it, my husband had written the sentence, ‘I hereby divorce you’ three times. The letter was signed by him and two other men, who are considered as witnesses to the divorce,” she said.

“I am worried for my children. I don’t know where or how they are. If they are going to school or not, if they are eating properly or not,” Bano said, as she broke down.

While she has been called “un-Islamic” by some sections of the Muslim society for challenging age-old practices of the religion, Bano is aware her “fight ahead is a long and hard one,” but she is ready for it.

“I will not back down. What is happening to Muslim women here is wrong. Things need to change now,” she said.

Demand for codified Muslim personal law

In a 2013 survey of 10 Indian states by the Mumbai-based Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a group working to empower Muslim women, an overwhelming majority wanted Muslim personal law to be codified.

Of the 4,320 Muslim women interviewed, 92.1 percent said they wanted the practice of unilateral oral triple talaq abolished. About 93 percent wanted a mandatory arbitration period before divorce. More than 91 percent were against polygamy.

Last November, the group released a report chronicling some 100 cases of triple talaq.

BMMA founder Zakia Soman said that over the years, the group had come across “thousands of cases of triple talaq,” some even by way of Facebook and Skype, rendering the women destitute.

Last year, a high-level government committee set up to review the status of women in India recommended a ban on the practice of triple talaq and polygamy, saying such practices render “wives extremely vulnerable and insecure regarding their marital status.”

The Supreme Court has directed the government to submit this report, which has not been made public, on the next date of hearing. An exact date has yet to be fixed by the apex court.

Muslim board against change

The AIMPLB, however, has made clear it wants no changes to the Muslim personal law.

On April 18, the AIMPLB unanimously passed a resolution with called for “non-interference by courts and government in matters of Muslim personal law,” board member Zafaryab Jilani told reporters, adding that the resolution has been sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Asma Zehra, another AIMPLB member, was quoted by BBC that Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was focusing on the issue of triple talaq “basically because they want to interfere in our religion” so they can introduce a uniform civil code.

Back in Uttarakhand, Bano is mentally preparing herself for the legal battle ahead. “Right now, my only focus is to fight for my rights and my children.

“I have undertaken a mission that requires courage. I get that courage whenever I think of my children. I am certain change is just around the corner.”(Benar News)

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Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

Also Read: With Medicine Running Out, Venezuelans With Transplant Live in Fear

According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS