As a country, we have many demons of our own to fight – be it poverty, rampant corruption, poor public health, hygiene and sanitation, various human rights issues owing to caste and gender discrimination, communal violence, rapes, female foeticide, honor killings, a debilitating infrastructure, a burgeoning traffic crisis, an overburdened judicial system, border security and terrorism, etc. Phew!
One such problem has snow-balled into a huge controversy of sorts in the recent times. Let us untangle this controversy ball called ‘The Triple Talaq’ and see where its history lies. The fundamental question that we are going to deal with is –What does it mean for the social welfare and justice for women, and in particular, our fellow Indian Muslim sisters?
The problem of women being abandoned after marriage by their respective husbands, sometimes in abetment with the in-laws is not exactly an uncommon story. Remember Siminder Kaur’s ongoing campaign to reunite with her son, Anhad after being tricked by her own husband and the in-laws? It happens in every strata, religion and culture in the world.
The good news is we have laws to protect us and fight for our rights. And there are women who brave through the thick veil of societal stigma against divorcees, coming forward to not only merely take refuge in these laws, but also, make a valiant attempt to change the prevailing norms of society.
One such brave lady is 25 year old Afreen Rehman, who was physically and mentally tortured by her husband and in-laws, following demands of dowry. Another sorry tale to be told is that of the English Literature postgraduate, 30 yr old Gulshan Parveen who was subjected to physical torture including being beaten with an iron rod by her husband. In spite of paying Rs.2.5 lakh, furniture, electronics, crockery and clothes, she was subjected to abuse for more dowry by her husband and in laws. The only reason she continued to stay was because she wanted her 2 year old son, Ridan to grow up in a traditional family.
Gulshan stated that she felt homeless instantly and wondered why her consent matters only in Nikah and why it is irrelevant when it comes to Talaq. Afreen, along with Farha Faiz, a Supreme Court lawyer is calling for a ban on the ‘Triple Talaq’, just like how it is banned in more than 20 Muslim countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In their support are 50,000 Muslim men and women – fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters in the Muslim community. Some of the notable celebrities in support of the ban include Shabana Azmi, Hina Zaheer Naqvi, Resul Pookutty, Saeed Mirza, Javed Siddiqi, Hasan Kamal, Anjum Rajabali, Shafaat Khan, Talat Jaani, Feroz Abbas Khan, etc.
Whether it is BJP member Shazia Ilmi or Congress member Shama Mohamed, both are vociferously in tandem when it comes to the ban on ‘Triple Talaq’. Shama Mohamed, in particular, calls for a reformation of the Indian Muslim Personal Law board to be in compliance with the Arabic Law, wherein the divorced wife is given her due alimony and rights.
On the other end of the spectrum are some of the highly learned scholars in the Islamic community who argue that the Triple Talaq is grossly misunderstood and that it is politically motivated to push the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). They point out that many people with little or no knowledge of Islam and Muslim personal laws are interested in reforming them.
They reason that while the Hindu Sastrik Law and Christian Canon doesn’t recognize divorce, Islam recognizes the right of an individual (both man and woman) to divorce via four methods – Talaq, Khula, Faskh-e- Nikah, Tafweedh-e- Talaq. Contrary to popular belief, they say that Talaq-ul-Biddat, or instantaneous divorce is not at all common amongst the majority of Muslims.
Out of the four schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Law and the fifth Shia school of jurisprudence, only one, the Hanafi school allows Triple Talaq. They also claim that Muslim women here already enjoy a two-tiered system of justice and protection, one from the Muslim Personal Board and the other from the Supreme Court. This privilege is not enjoyed by women in the other Indian communities.
They finally conclude that Islam is a religion of peace that not only respects modesty but also protects its women. While their clarifications may hold ground in religious terms, the gross reality is that in practice, the divorced Indian Muslim woman often finds herself at the short end of the stick. Left nowhere to go and with no alimony to claim in reality, many Muslims in the community are standing behind their divorced Muslim sisters in their call for social justice.
With the whole country awaiting with bated breath the Supreme Court’s final verdict, the larger question to be addressed is how exactly is the ban going to help the plight of women in the community?
What if the real solution lies not in the ban alone but an overall change in the mindset not just in the society, but also within the women in the community themselves? And what about the similar plight of women in other communities? In the larger picture, no one religion, practice or cause can be pinpointed as the root problem when it comes to dowry and abandonment of women, and no amount of bans and awareness drives are going to solve and wish away all our problems. Hello Nordic Paradox!
Yet, this is a step in the right direction. Especially for many hapless women and their children who were abandoned and discarded overnight out of their own homes, the upcoming Supreme Court verdict might just bring back, along with justice…. their much needed honor, respect, dignity and most importantly of all, an identity of their own.