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A proposed bill criminalising triple talaq, now empowering Muslim women

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A proposed bill criminalising triple talaq, now empowering Muslim women
A proposed bill criminalising triple talaq, now empowering Muslim women. IANS
  • Muslim women raising their voices against triple talaq
  • Triple talaq meaning any pronouncement of divorce by a person upon his wife in any manner
  • A bill has been proposed against triple talaq

New Delhi, Dec 24, 2017: The proposed bill that criminalises the practice of instant divorce “empowers” Indian Muslim women by giving them a larger say in dissolving marriages, custody of minor children and the right to seek maintenance from their estranged husbands, according to the cabinet-cleared controversial legislation opposed by Muslim groups.

The bill defines triple talaq as “any pronouncement (of divorce) by a person upon his wife by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form, or in any other manner”. It proposes to make the practice a punishable offence and is set to be introduced in the Lok Sabha next week.

IANS has exclusive access to a copy of the cabinet-cleared version of the legislation drafted after the Supreme Court’s decision against the gender-discriminatory practice that is not followed even in major Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan.

The draft bill says the practice against “constitutional morality” and “gender equity” is to be considered “void and illegal”.

Anyone who pronounces instant divorce “shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and a fine”, the bill proposes.

In its statement of objects and reason, the draft mentions the landmark Shayara Bano case in which the Supreme Court invalidated the practice of instant triple talaq. The statement would be read by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad when he introduces the bill in the Lok Sabha to explain why the government had to formulate the legislation.

Shayara Bano, a 38-year-old woman from Uttarakhand, fought a long legal battle seeking an end to the patriarchal custom after she claimed to have suffered for 14 years in her marriage.

“This judgement gave a boost to liberate Indian Muslim women from the age-old practice of capricious and whimsical method of divorce, by some Muslim men, leaving no room for reconciliation,” the minister says in the bill’s statement of objects.

The judgement vindicated the position taken by the government that “talaq-e-biddat”, which allows men to pronounce divorce thrice in one sitting, is against “constitutional morality, dignity of women and the principles of gender equality, as also against gender equity guaranteed under the Constitution”.

Clerics and several Muslim organisations, cutting across sects and schools of jurisprudence, protested against the Supreme Court judgement and termed the government’s stand as “uncalled for interference” in the personal laws of the community.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, in the bill’s objects and reasons, says the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which was also a respondent in the Shayara Bano case, had contended that it was not for the judiciary to decide matters of religious practices such as talaq-e-biddat but for the legislature to make any law on the same.

“They had also submitted in the Supreme Court that they would issue advisories to the members of the community against this practice,” the minister explains.

The bill notes that “there have been reports of divorce by way of talaq-e-biddat from different parts of the country” even after the Supreme Court invalidated the practice and the assurance by AIMPLB.

“It is seen that setting aside talaq-e-biddat by the Supreme Court has not worked as any deterrent in bringing down the number of divorces by this practice among certain Muslims. It is, therefore, felt that there is a need for State action to give effect to the order of the Supreme Court and to redress the grievances of victims of illegal divorce,” the minister says.

The bill states that urgent suitable legislation was necessary “to give some relief to…the hapless married Muslim women who suffer from harassment due to talaq-e-biddat.

“This is essential to prevent this form of divorce, wherein the wife does not have any say in severing the marital relationship.

“The legislation would help in ensuring the larger constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and help subserve their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment.” (IANS)

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Ban ‘Triple Talaq’: India Criminalizes Centuries-Old Practice of Sudden Divorce Among Muslims

The bill sets a fine and a jail sentence of up to three years for men convicted of using the practice

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triple talaq
FILE - Indian Muslims protest against the government approving an ordinance to implement a top court ruling striking down a Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce in Mumbai, India, Sept. 19, 2018. VOA

India’s parliament has passed a measure to criminalize the centuries-old practice of instant divorce among Muslims and punish men with jail terms if they defy a ban on what is known as “triple talaq.”

The government said a law was necessary because there have been instances of Muslim men continuing to terminate marriages by repeating the Arabic word “talaq” three times, although the practice was outlawed by India’s Supreme Court in 2017.

The bill sets a fine and a jail sentence of up to three years for men convicted of using the practice. It will become law as soon as the president signs it. In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “an archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbins of history,” and it “corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women.”

The measure, called the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill, was passed in the upper house of parliament amid protests from the main opposition Congress party,  which opposed setting a prison term for offenders and wanted further scrutiny of the bill.

triple talaq
Indian Muslims stand outside Parliament House in New Delhi, India, Friday, July 26, 2019. VOA

Critics of the law say it is a harsh measure that’s open to misuse and is being used by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to target Muslims. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad defended the bill, saying it was necessary to protect the dignity and honor of Muslim women and ensure gender justice.

The bill’s passage is seen as a major victory for Modi’s government, which failed to pass it during Modi’s first term in office. The bill had been passed by the lower house last week, but all eyes were on Tuesday’s vote because the government does not have a majority in the Upper House. It passed 99 to 84.

The practice of “triple talaq” has long been banned in several Muslim countries like Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan but continued in India.

Zakia Soman, a cofounder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) organization, which was at the forefront of the legal battle to scrap “triple talaq,” welcomed passage of the bill. “It will not change our lives overnight, but it would give strength to the movement for justice for Muslim women,” according to Soman. She said “it was a moment to rejoice.”

triple talaq
If we don’t cry now, Triple Talaq, and such other vices, might go digital, and burn millions of households. VOA

Women rights activists had cited many cases where men had divorced women via letter, telephone and, increasingly, by text message, WhatsApp and Skype by uttering or writing the three words. They said what was practiced in India was a misinterpretation of Islamic law.

Conservative Muslim clerics, however, had staunchly opposed efforts to scrap “triple talaq,” calling it a religious issue that should not be interfered with. Although India’s constitution guarantees equality, it allows matters such as marriage, divorce and alimony to be governed by religious laws.

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Tahir Mahmood, an expert on Islamic law, said he hoped the law would act as a deterrent on Muslim men divorcing wives in an arbitrary manner. He said the practice should not have been made a criminal offense, but he pointed out that religious leaders of the community had failed to do anything to curb the practice.

Some scholars of Sharia law call “triple talaq” a travesty of divorce as envisaged in the Quran. They say the word has to be pronounced over three months and accompanied by efforts at reconciliation. (VOA)