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Long pending injustice to Muslim Women! Supreme Court Hearing in India to Decide Validity of Muslim Divorce Practice “Triple Talaq”

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Muslim women in India are vulnerable and insecure due to the community's practice that lets Muslim men divorce their wives by saying the word "talaq (divorce) " according to women rights campaigners. (Photo: A. Pasricha/VOA)

New Delhi, May 10, 2017: Muslim women’s rights groups in India are hoping a supreme court hearing to decide the legality of Islamic family laws that allow Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying the word “talaq,” or divorce, three times will correct what they call a “long pending injustice” to Muslim women.

A charged debate has taken place ahead of the hearing scheduled to begin Thursday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has supported calls to end what has come to be known as instant divorce, but conservative Muslim clerics staunchly oppose overturning the practice, calling it a political ploy by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to take away Muslim identity.

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It was the lawsuit of 35-year-old Shayara Khan, a quiet, middle class woman living far away from the spotlight in the town of Kashipur in Uttarakhand state, that brought the controversial practice before the top court.The three brief words, “talaq, talaq, talaq” that came in a letter from her husband abruptly ending her marriage have been heard by thousands of Muslim women before her. In India, where each religion has separate laws that govern marriage, succession, adoption and maintenance, the practice that allows a Muslim man to unilaterally end a marriage in a matter of seconds is sanctioned under the community’s law.

The Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi: The All India Muslim Personal law Board says that clerics educate Muslim men during Friday prayer sermons about using “triple talaq (husband saying t o wife: ‘you are divorced’ thrice)” only as a last resort if life with her becomes impossible but maintains that the controversial practice cannot be overturned. Under the Muslim divorce law, women have many rights given to her by Islam. (Photo: A. Pasricha/VOA)

But Khan’s quest for justice in a life-changing decision that gave no room for her voice to be heard, takes a different track – she is challenging the practice of “triple talaq” as violating the Indian constitution that protects gender equality.

Shayara’s petition highlights how the arbitrary practice leaves them vulnerable and insecure. “Muslim women have their hands tied while the guillotine of divorce dangles, perpetually ready to drop at the whims of their husbands who enjoy undisputed power,” it said, pointing out that women have been divorced through Skype and text messages. Several other petitions have now been joined with hers.

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The court will also hear pleas challenging the validity of polygamy and another practice concerning marriage reconciliation.

As the court begins to deliberate on these controversial customs, women activists exude confidence. Zakia Soman of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (Indian Muslim Women’s Movement) is “100 per cent optimistic” that the judgment will correct a “long pending injustice” to Muslim women in India. “We want a Muslim personal law that enables equality in marriage and family matters,” she said.

However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which is at the forefront of the counter campaign to retain “triple talaq,” is arguing that the practice cannot be banned as it is allowed under Sharia laws. He said the body is educating Muslim men during sermons at Friday prayers that it should only be used as a last resort when all attempts at reconciliation have failed.

Kamal Farooqui, a board member, is emphatic that the religious laws of Islam cannot be rewritten in the name of social reform.

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“The whole jurisprudence is a God-gifted one, it is not a man-made constitution and these laws are the laws of divine which cannot be changed,” he told VOA. He questioned the courts standing in the matter. “Those honorable judges who do not know anything about Islam, who do not know the background of Quran, how can they interpret it?”

Women’s groups refute these arguments saying that what is practiced in India is a patriarchal system and a misinterpretation of Islamic law.

They point out that countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan do not allow the pronouncement of triple talaq in one go.

Hasina Khan of Bebaak Collective, another women’s organization, laments that Muslim religious leaders in India have failed to be responsive to women’s concerns. Saying that Muslim personal law is problematic in terms of divorce, property rights and inheritance, she said women have knocked at the door of Muslim bodies several times. But “they have not listened, not given priority for the Muslim women’s struggles, that is why we had to come to the court,” she said.

The Supreme Court begins a landmark hearing on Thursday to decide the legality of the Muslim divorce practice known as “triple talaq” which is allowed by Muslim family law in India. (Photo: A. Pasricha/VOA)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has told the court that the practice denies Muslim women “the full enjoyment of fundamental rights under the constitution,” and cannot be regarded as an essential practice in Islam.

Modi himself has supported the cause of ending triple talaq from public platforms on several occasions. In his latest reference to it, he expressed confidence that reformers from within the community will come forward to change the status quo. “I appeal to the Muslim community to not politicize the issue.”

However conservative Muslim bodies remain deeply suspicious of the BJP’s support for ending triple talaq. “It is nothing but a political propaganda against Islam,” said Farooqui.

Underlying their suspicion is the fear that the issue is being used by the Hindu nationalist BJP with an eye to bring in a common family law for all citizens, irrespective of religion. The issue has been long debated in India, but always consigned to the back burner by political parties. (VOA)

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Mercy for the Nirbhaya Rapists?

Gender discrimination is the root of many evils. While keeping the aspiration of females down, certain males have committed many wrongs in the past.

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Nirbhaya
The Nirbhaya incident in Delhi was “instrumental” in bringing about a kind of gender awareness renaissance in India.

By Salil Gewali

Gender discrimination is the root of many evils. While keeping the aspiration of females down, certain males have committed many wrongs in the past. Apart from various kinds of physical tortures, the mental tortures undergone by defenseless females are endless. Within the confinement of four-walls innumerable sins are still being committed which mostly go unreported. However, it was Nirbhaya’s rape incident in Delhi that was “instrumental” in bringing about a kind of gender awareness renaissance in India. Post-Nirbhaya incident, a lot many changes in the laws have been made. The safety and security of women have been prioritized, the nation-wide the whole police departments have been sensitized, to a greater extent the road transportation has been made women-friendly.

Nirbhaya rape
The public is right and more sensible now to point out the “hard cruelty” with which the gang had sexually tortured Nirbhaya that night.

Thanks to the countless number of protests across the country condemning the six rapists. The people from all walks of life came together and relentlessly pressurized the government that the Nirbhaya convicts must be awarded capital punishment. Media’s contribution in the campaign is immeasurable. Alas, India’s judiciary is so annoyingly slow it has taken over 7 years to pronounce the death sentence.

Nirbhaya rape
Advocate Indira Jaising suggested that the convicts of Nirbhaya rape case could be “forgiven” by the parents.

However, now nothing could be so mind-blowing than the flood of condemnation against the comments by a veteran advocate and social activist Indira Jaising. Without a sense of guilt and potential backlash, she suggested that the convicts be “forgiven” by the parents. Jaising’s idea has clearly touched a raw nerve of the major population in the country. People’s anger is spilled well over social media. What is most noteworthy is the scathing condemnation directly from the horse mouth — the mother Asha Devi. A very bold lady, who determinedly fought for justice for so many years, thunders – “Who is Indira Jaising to give me such a suggestion? The whole country wants the convicts to be executed. Just because of people like her, justice is not done with rape victims,” Asha Devi aptly further adds — “Can’t believe how Jaising even dared to suggest such this; I met her many times over the years in Supreme Court, “not once” she asked for my well-being and today she is speaking for convicts. Such people earn a livelihood by supporting rapists; hence rape incidents don’t stop,”

The latter comments by the Nirbhaya’s mother clearly hint the doubt at the “integrity” of the advocate Ms. Jaising. How on earth that one who has not spoken a word of sympathy in spite of many encounters in the court can reserves the right to suggest that which offends the distressed victim party. Asha Devi deserves a salute for her boldness. Yes, India Jaising is one of the advocates who knocked the door of the Chief Justice of India in the middle of the night in July 2015 in order to seek the mercy for the dreaded terrorist Yakub Menon.

Nirbhaya rapists
In 2015, the Delhi Government proposed to award the Nirbhaya juvenile convicts with Rs 10000/- and a sewing machine.

Again, here is another bombshell to drop which many of us may have forgotten. Can we ever “forgive” for the shocking proposal in 2015 by Delhi Government to award the Nirbhaya juvenile convicts with Rs 10000/- and a sewing machine?  Who has approved such bizarre ideas and which leaders are responsible? What kind of lesson should the citizens take from this?

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I think the public is right and more sensible now to point out the “hard cruelty” with which the gang had sexually tortured Nirbhaya that night. They had used the iron-rod to inflict deep injuries upon the girl which is unspeakable, which is very unpardonable. So, given the increasing cases of rapes and subsequent inhumane cruelty and cold-blooded killings, Capital punishment can be the only answer and “one of the deterrents”. Before the divine retribution, the hard rod of punishment should not be spared at all. 

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali