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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
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  • 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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Triple Talaq Now Banned In India

While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched.

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Indian Muslim women talk while walking through a market in Ahmadabad, India. VOA

India’s government on Wednesday approved an ordinance to implement a top court ruling striking down the Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce.

The government decision came after it failed to get approval of Parliament a year after the court ruled that the practice of triple “talaq” violated the constitutional rights of Muslim women.

Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by the Muslim Personal Law for family matters and disputes. The laws include allowing men to divorce by simply uttering the Arabic word “talaq,” or divorce, three times — and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium, including telephone, text message or social media post.

Muslim
Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of  women, VOA News

The government will have another six months to get Parliament’s approval for the ordinance to become law. But in the meantime, suspects can be prosecuted using the ordinance.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that nearly 22 countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice and appealed to the opposition to approve the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill.

India’s Muslim Law Board had told the court that while they considered the practice wrong, they opposed any court intervention and asked that the matter be left to the community. But several progressive Muslim activists decried the law board’s position.

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Muslim women hold placards during a protest against a bill passed by India’s lower house of Parliament last week that aims at prosecuting Muslim men who divorce their wives through the “triple talaq,” or instant divorce. VOA

After the Supreme Court verdict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government introduced a bill criminalizing the practice and it was approved in December by the lower house of Parliament, where his party commands a majority. But it couldn’t get the approval of the upper house, where the opposition controls the majority of seats.

The main opposition Congress party is opposing a three-year prison sentence for the offenders and wants a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue to reach a consensus. It favors a lesser sentence.

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In India, triple talaq has continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious laws in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption. While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched. (VOA)