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Triple Talaq verdict is a small victory. But there are more battles to be won

Are the divorced Indian women getting their due?

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Triple Talaq was a harmful practice faced by Muslim women
Triple Talaq was a harmful practice faced by Muslim women. Pixabay
  • Women are asked to compromise for the sake of family honor, children, not being financially independent and many such reasons
  • It’s a tough decision for Indian women to file for a divorce even if their marriages have been exploitative, oppressive or unhappy
  • The problems are most dreadful for women whose marriages have not been formally ended

 New Delhi, September 3, 2017: Supreme Court’s verdict on Triple Talaq case is like a ray of sunshine. The verdict has been welcomed, applauded and celebrated all across India by the people who advocate for women’s rights. Judgement on Triple Talaq has been possible because of courage shown by strong Muslim women to change the course of their lives and a long struggle of groups such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan who did not put their foot down in spite of having to face pressure, threats from the Muslim community and outside of it.

Reactions women in country face when they consider getting a divorce

There are many other societies where higher rates of divorce are often equated with an expression of choice that women possess and the liberation of women. But, sadly this is not the case with India as divorce evokes dark, shameful reactions, taunts, rage, and pity from the society, often a woman is blamed for it. It is not considered as a suitable option for women suffering from unhappy marriages, they are asked to work it out, to solve the differences even if there’s no easy solution to it. They are asked to compromise for the sake of family honor, children, not being financially independent and many such reasons.

Why do Indian women hesitate from taking a Divorce?

It’s a tough decision for Indian women to file for a divorce even if their marriages have been exploitative, oppressive or unhappy. One reason for this could be the low status of women or not enough respect and value given to them in the society, especially rural India. Another reason is that the women who have low income don’t spend their independent share on themselves out of guilt, they utilize most it in taking care of their homes and save the rest. Also, some regressive and unequal practices are still going on like inheritance, asset ownership which means that no matter which religion a woman belongs to they are denied access to owning assets.

It means that most often than not an end of marriage leaves women with a financial crisis, along with emotional pain, on top of that they not only have to manage their own life but also their children’s without much financial aid.

Divorce Percentage

According to 2011 census on Indians marital status, “among divorced Indian women, 68% are Hindu, and 23.3%, Muslim.” This implies that more Hindu women are getting divorced than Muslim women.

The State governments have failed to empower Muslim women, issues related to their rights and needs are hardly addressed by politicians. Thus their social and economic conditions are degrading- they have unequal access to job, education and other opportunities in life.

More failed marriages were recorded in rural India with 8.5 lakh divorced persons and in urban India, the number is 5.03 lakh divorced persons. Maharashtra has the highest number of divorced citizens which is 2.09 lakh persons. The state which holds the record of lowest failed marriages has 1,330 divorcees.

Negatives of Triple Talaq

A Muslim man being able to end a marriage by a means of disrespecting and utterly irresponsible manner of triple talaq (uttering the word talaq 3 times, it can be oral, written or electronic). The practice of triple talaq was gender biased and gave unequal rights to Muslim women. So, it’s a victory worth celebrating that this shameful practice has culminated legally.

Why is Separation more harmful?

More dissolved marriages in India happen through separation and not a formal divorce. It’s a growing concern as separation (abandonment by a husband) is more common for women in all religions than a divorce. It puts women in a more dangerous spot as they can’t ask for alimony as there is no legality connected to it, which further weakens their financial status. Also, their husbands take away their freedom to remarry. According to census data, “More women than men in India are separated (out of a marriage without a formal divorce).”

So, though triple talaq was definitely a truly intolerable practice, it is only one of the ways through which married women could be abandoned. There are women across different communities who continue to face problems of abandonment, also called separation without having a proper means to survive or lead a decent life.

Also Read: Ishrat Jahan, a Triple Talaq Petitioner Writes to West Bengal CM Seeking Security After Supreme Court Verdict

Effectiveness of Divorce Laws

Marital dissolution in India comes under various laws but more often than not, the decisions don’t benefit women in a big way.  No matter how strong or secure is the legal framework, the single legal right that an Indian woman has after getting a divorce- the right of maintenance from her spouse or alimony. But maintenance or alimony reaches them much late due to the ‘prolonged legal processes’ and they are sometimes provided with very small and negligible amounts. Another loophole is that the court doesn’t ensure regular payment from their husbands.

Obviously, the problems are most dreadful for women whose marriages have not been formally ended, who are separated and not divorced from their husbands. Even for those women who have a formal divorce, the courts (be it family courts or formal courts) turn out to be grueling and intimidating places to seek justice, especially for the ones who are illiterate, not much educated, or belong to poor families.

Struggles faced during and after a divorce

Taking Divorce is a tedious process with repeated court trips, cases getting postponed, and lawyers charging heavy fees and most important but sidelined factor- to deal with patriarchal attitudes shown by lawyers as well as judges. All these reasons contribute to women feeling helpless with wasted efforts, and even lead to dissuasion of women (by family, relatives, friends, lawyers) to pursue the cases after a point.  Those women, who have taken up employment (for financial security) after the end of marriage, even if their employer pays them very less, they get little sympathy from the courts regarding alimony.

This should be the focal point in viewing the triple talaq judgment by the court. Muslim women have been successful in getting triple talaq scrapped by law but the war is not over yet. Indian women still have to face difficulties in getting some alimony or maintenance which is due to them, on which they have a deserving right.

Also Read: Namaz Offering Mamata Banerjee Remains Silent on Triple Talaq Verdict

Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act

But, there has been a setback for Muslim women, we are talking about the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, also known as MWA. This was widely seen as a patriarchal response in response to the clamor by the Muslim men to the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case in which her former husband was forced to pay continued alimony to her.

“The MWA drastically limited the husband’s liability to his former wife. It stated that once a woman’s iddat expenses (covering three months’ subsistence) had been paid and she had received her mehr (dowry) and any other money or property that had been gifted to her at the time of marriage, the husband had no further financial responsibility towards her.”

This law came was criticized by women activists and others who were sensitive towards women’s rights. It was called a discriminatory law that singled out Muslim women and deprived them of maintenance rights which are available to all the other divorced Indian women. They were taken for granted and the act had some harmful consequences. It encouraged a higher rate of divorce in Muslim community as it allowed Men to get away from the marriage without providing any maintenance for their wife’s survival.

Revision of Act

As per MWA, the husband should provide “reasonable and fair provision” during the 3 month iddat period. A clause was further added in 2001 by a Supreme Court judgment that “during the iddat period, a Muslim man is liable to make a payment to his ex-wife that will secure her ability to sustain herself in the future. As a result, courts began to require men to give their ex-wives substantial lump-sum amounts or to transfer some material assets such as land, a house, or gold and jewelry.”

The implementation of the law made divorced Muslim women heave a sigh of relief and will force the ex-husbands to give a substantial lump-sum amount to their wives. This would thus release the divorced Muslim women from worrying over the unreliability and uncertainty of periodic payments (by law) for maintenance.  This might make them even better off than non-Muslim counterparts. But in most other cases of divorce, lack of financial support from husbands remains a big concern for them.

The war is not over

The point we are trying to make is that the problems faced by divorced Indian women are plenty, and they are because of the social, cultural, economic and legal practices that are still present in all religions. This Supreme Court verdict should be reminders for all of us to take note of this small victory, to keep in mind the loopholes present in Divorce rights still and should also motivate us to take up more such battles in future in order to make our country more gender sensitive. So, that both the genders can live a life of peace and dignity.


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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!’ 

ALSO READ: India Says Pakistan’s Links with Pulwama Attack Clear For All to See

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.