By Sreyashi Mazumdar
Codification of Muslim personal laws has always been a hot potato among the intelligentsia and a coveted platter for politicians who nibble on delicate issues like religion in order to serve their vicious purports. However, amid the brouhaha it is the common man whose voice remains unheard. There has been a persistent demand for the codification of Muslim laws that would scuttle the degree of discrepancy both in public and private fora. The Shah Bano case was one such example that had unleashed a string of debates and deliberations on the veracity of a codified Muslim personal law. Though the entire debate on the issue might have lost its sheen, efforts are being made to reform or rather bring forth a refurbished Muslim personal law that would be gender just and prudent.
Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan today has released a national study on Muslim women’s views on reforms in Muslim personal laws. The study extensively fleshes out the hushed voices of Muslim women who want a change in the laws shaping their personal lives. Unlike the Hindu, Christian, or Parsee community, the Muslim community does not have a coherent law that would define the tenets of justice. It is the Muslim personal law board or the Maulvis who look over contentious cases like divorce, succession, proprietary, etc. In an attempt at scuttling the loopholes, BMMA had conducted a study which included 4710 Muslim women across 10 states to collate their views on the discrepancies in the Muslim personal law.
According to the study, a whopping 80 percent of the women demanded a major reform in the Muslim personal law; they demanded an elaborate Codified law based on the Quranic justice framework.
Some of the sought after demands sounded out during the study include eradication of Zubani Talaq (around 92 percent of the women demanded abolition of zubani talaq), there should be a reconciliation period of around three months before the termination of the marriage (around 88 percent supported the aforementioned demand), government intervention in helping codify Muslim personal law, the religious leaders should be gender just and cater to the demands of women prudently (86 percent of the women quoted their voice for the same).
“Deliberations on contentious issues catering to Muslim personal law has always been imbued with a patriarchal color. It is the religious leaders who get the scope to voice out their opinion which inevitably doesn’t cater to the larger section of the Muslim community, especially women. Even political leaders who adhere to the so called secular ideology end up tarnishing delicate issues like the need of a codified Muslim law owing to their constant thirst for power,” said Zakia Soman, a member of BMMA who conducted the aforesaid study on Codification of Muslim personal law.
“We have taken into consideration the voices of majorly illiterate women because we feel that their voices remain tethered within the four walls; educated women still have resources to voice out their opinions and switch to other options,” added Noor Jahan Sofiniaz, a co-author of the study and a member of BMMA.
“We are planning to present our study before the law commission, the ministry of women and child development and to other states as well,” added Soman.