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For every divorced Muslim man in India, there are four divorced Muslim women, says Analysis of Census 2011 data

There are gender discriminatory personal laws across India's religious communities, not merely among Muslims

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India, October 20, 2016: In India, for every divorced Muslim man, there are four divorced Muslim women, an analysis of Census 2011 data shows.

Across religious communities, except Sikhs, there are more divorced women than men. But the gender skew is particularly sharp among Muslims (79:21), followed by “other religions” (72:28), and Buddhists (70:30).

Among divorced Indian women, 68 percent are Hindu, and 23.3 percent, Muslims, according to Census 2011 data on the marital status of Indians. The data were recently cited by Muslim groups protesting the Law Commission’s formulation of a Uniform Civil Code, especially a ban on triple talaq.

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Among divorced men, Hindus account for 76 percent, and Muslims, 12.7 per cent. Both Christian women and men cover 4.1 percent of their gender-respective divorced groups.

Women’s rights activists believe that the gender imbalance in the numbers implies that more men than women are remarrying. “If there are 100 divorced couples, it should show a 50:50 sex-ratio. The skewed ratio plainly shows that after divorce, not only is it easier for men to remarry but also that they show a greater need or want to remarry,” Flavia Agnes, legal scholar and women’s rights activist, told IndiaSpend in a telephonic interview.

The skewed ratio among Muslims could be attributed to two problems, according to Hasina Khan, founder of the Bebaak Collective, a Muslim women’s organisation based in Mumbai. “The first is the absolute powers given to men under the Muslim personal laws by allowing triple talaq and so on. For women, getting married provides security of shelter and food with few rights for negotiation,” she said.

The other reason is the state’s failure to empower Muslim women, she added. “There is little political will to address the needs of this sub-group. The socio-economic condition of Muslim women in India continues to deteriorate with inadequate access to good education, job opportunities and so on,” Khan said.

With a total population of 8.5 lakh divorced persons, the Census recorded more failed marriages in rural India, where a higher proportion of the nation’s population still resides. In urban India, there were 5.03 lakh divorced persons.

Maharashtra, with 2.09 lakh persons, recorded the highest number of divorced citizens. The second-most populous state also holds the largest disproportion of men-to-women divorcees. About 73.5 percent — or 1.5 lakh — divorced persons in the state are women.

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The highest population of divorced men in the country — 1.03 lakh persons — resides in Gujarat, accounting for 54 percent of the state’s divorced population.

Goa, with 1,330 divorcees, holds the lowest record of failed marriages.

More women than men in India are separated — out of a marriage without a formal divorce — the Census data showed. Activists believe that this indicates the widespread practice of polygamy across India.

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“Men often desert their wives in a separation, withholding from them the freedom to remarry. The data incongruence clearly shows that more men are into polygamy, obtaining second and third wives, while society gives no rights for women,” Agnes said.

Within religious communities, the highest imbalance of separated women-to-men ratio has been recorded among Muslims, with women accounting for 75 per cent of the separated population. Christian women, who comprised 69 percent of the separated population within their community, follow. Another significant disparity has been recorded among Buddhists, where separated women comprised 68 percent of the demographic group within their community.

Over the decade ending 2011, there was a 39 percent rise in the number of single Indian women — including widows, divorcees and unmarried women, and those deserted by husbands — IndiaSpend reported in November 2015. However, the number of bachelors (58 per cent) still exceeds unmarried women, according to the Census data, indicating higher pressure on women to get married.

On October 7, the Law Commission published a list of 16 questions seeking public opinion on the need for a Uniform Civil Code for India. Apart from probing citizens’ perception of gender equality in prevalent personal laws across religions, a question asked if the practice of triple talaq should be abolished, continued or amended. Another question sought views on strengthening Hindu women’s rights to inherit property.

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The Muslim Personal Law Board has criticised the legal panel’s exercise, claiming the Law Commission is not acting independent of the central government that opposed the triple talaq law in Supreme Court the same day. Responding to a batch of public interest litigations filed by NGOs and women’s rights groups on the issue, the Centre said the practice cannot be regarded as an essential part of religion.

“There are gender discriminatory personal laws across India’s religious communities — not merely among Muslims. Though it claims to aid vulnerable sections, the Law Commission’s plans for the Uniform Civil Code do not deal with these in the right spirit. The uniformity it speaks of would only dilute India’s plural cultures while bringing in the same patriarchal bias,” Khan said.

Hindus comprise about 80 percent of India’s population, while Muslims account for 14.23 percent. Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains comprise 2.3 per cent, 1.72 per cent, 0.7 per cent and 0.37 per cent, respectively, of the population.(IANS)

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  • Ruchika Kumari

    All men and women are equal,still in books only,no practical application.

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For Plea Against Polygamy Supreme Court Takes Centre’s Response

personal laws must meet the test of constitutional validity and constitutional morality

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a fresh plea that challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ among Muslims in India.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a fresh plea that challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ among Muslims in India. Flickr

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a fresh plea that challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ among Muslims in India.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud issued the notice to the Centre and tagged the plea with similar petitions pending before it.

The fresh plea filed by Women Resistance Committee Chairperson Nazia Ilahi Khan, a practicing advocate at the Calcutta High Court, has challenged the practice of polygamy, ‘nikah halala’, ‘nikah mutah’ (temporary marriage among Shias) and ‘nikah misyar’ (short-term marriage among Sunnis) on the grounds that these were violative of the Constitution’s Articles 14, 15 and 21.

Under ‘nikah halala’, if a Muslim woman after divorce by her husband three times on different instances, wants to go back to him, she has to marry another person and then divorce the second husband to get re-married to her first husband.

“Declare the dissolution of the Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution in so far as it fails to secure for the Indian Muslim women the protection from bigamy which has been statutorily secured for Indian women from other religions,” said her plea filed through advocate V.K. Biju.

The apex court has been hearing pleas filed by Sameena Begum, Nafisa Khan, Moullium Mohsin and BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay on the issue.

Article 14 guarantees equality before law, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and Article 21 guarantees protection of life and personal liberty.

Telling the court that though different religious communities are governed by different personal laws, Upadhyay had contended that “personal laws must meet the test of constitutional validity and constitutional morality in as much as they cannot be violative of Articles 14, 15, and 21”.

Pointing to the “appalling” affect of polygamy and other such practices on the Muslim women, senior counsel Mohan Parasaran had earlier told the apex court that the 2017 judgment holding instant ‘triple talaq’ as unconstitutional had left these two issues open and did not address them.

Polygamy, Man along with his 5 wives
Polygamy, Man along with his 5 wives. Flickr

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice J.S. Khehar (since retired), by a majority judgment in 2017, had said: “Keeping in view the factual aspect in the present case, as also the complicated questions that arise for consideration in this case (and, in the other connected cases), at the very outset, it was decided to limit the instant consideration to ‘talaq-e-biddat’ or triple talaq.

Also read: Goa Common Civil Code forbids neither Oral Divorce nor Polygamy among Muslims: Governor

“Other questions raised in the connected writ petitions, such as polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ (and other allied matters), would be dealt with separately. The determination of the present controversy may, however, coincidentally render an answer even to the connected issues.” (IANS)