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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)

Next Story

Triple Talaq Act is Not a Commodity, Nor are Women Doormats

Where are the conscious intellectuals in the country now, like those award-wapsi groups; and why is the media holding back from denouncing the perpetuation of the baneful practice?

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

BY: SALIL GEWALI

Election season in India is like a festival for many. For some parties’ workers, it is an occasion for joy, and merrymaking too. This is also the time when leaders respond to your phone calls! They hardly miss to send you even birthday wishes, thanks to the automated reminders that help even unkind leaders to put on the face of kindness and generosity with ease.

Well, a flurry of promises is now being made. Some are logical while some are very illogical. Some are even unconstitutional and outrageous. And this all goes to prove that certain political leaders can go to any extent for votes. Their aspirational leaders speak out without thinking. The prime objective is to please the voters. Moreover, making promises does not cost anything.

In the process of pleasing some, certain leaders have grievously hurt many others. They are also now unashamedly getting at Triple Talaq Act. They are bargaining with the certain voters over this as a saleable commodity. Is it not a sore point with female folks? Just imagine how hurt the fathers of million daughters in the country must be.  Again, a sane person should agree that Triple Talaq has been heavily misinterpreted and thus abused for centuries, as all the laid down strict conditions are ignored and moral associated overlooked. Even our immediate neighbor Pakistan, an Islamic country has long abandoned it because of the increasing misuse of the Islamic law.

Triple Talaq
Political leaders can go to any extent for votes and their aspirational leaders speak out without thinking. Their prime objective is to please the voters.

Yes, we well know how hard the present government had fought with the adversaries to bring in the bill against this regressive custom. Modi government certainly deserves the praises for this bold step forward. This bill will definitely save both men and women in many aspects.  Women from their husbands’ atrocities and men from committing sin!

But now, with the MP election around the corner, the certain parties are stooping low to take advantage of this much-abused practice. In their course of campaign, the leaders are claiming that they will revoke the bill if voted to power. What is most disgusting is that even the woman leaders of Congress party, without a sense of guilt, are boasting about that their party will instantly restore the Triple Talaq. Is it not a very dangerous development itself? True, when people lust after one thing, they simply forget that they are walking on the path of vices! Where are the conscious intellectuals in the country now, like those award-wapsi groups; and why is the media holding back from denouncing the perpetuation of the baneful practice? This is indeed a real tragedy! 

Do we want the cutting edge of modern technology to be used to break off the marriage? Many marital ties have been severed by mere a phone call? Are women doormats or disposal items? One very upset mother of three daughters says —  ‘this misused practice has literally reduced the millions of talented women to living corpses!’ 

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If the election and democracy are only to help get society to be more godless then we are definitely heading towards the anarchy. So damning, the leaders, who commit themselves to ensure the bright future for the society and better governance, can thus set about dragging the society into the whirlpool oppression, repression, and frustration. How on earth could we trust such kind of leaders and bet on their integrity? Have they not equally brought a bad name to other leaders of integrity?  Come on, let’s wake up and cry hard for the leaders of principle and moral who in fact can honestly promise to douse the fire of vices. If we don’t cry now, Triple Talaq, and such other vices, might go digital, and burn millions of households.

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