Men battle over women's rights

Banning triple talaq' is a human rights issue, politics should be kept out of it.

It is a gross injustice to Muslim women: Ashok Goel
Triple talaq” is a widely practised policy in Muslim community. According to this practice, a Muslim man may divorce his wife by speaking the word “talaq”, which means “I divorce you”, three times in quick succession to her. The practice has been stopped in many Muslim-majority nations, including Pakistan, but is permitted in India under the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1937.

A couple which underwent triple talaq cannot remarry unless the female marries another man truly and then her second husband dies or divorces her. In this case the marriage (nikah) of the woman with her second husband is called nikah halala.

This is a social and human rights issue and women must get their rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The fundamental rights are defined as the basic human rights of all citizens. These rights, defined in Part III of the Constitution, apply irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste, creed or gender. The fundamental rights include the right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights and right to constitutional remedies.

Triple talaq is a gross injustice to Muslim women and many are raising their voices against this practice from the Muslim community itself. There is no legal, moral, cultural or even religious justification behind continuing to let a few patriarchs of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and vested political dispensations deny the fundamental rights of Muslim women. While the AIMPLB acts as self-appointed custodians of faith and interpret Sharia law in a way that extends their hegemony, political parties are reluctant for change for perceived electoral benefits.

The AIMPLB started its own signature campaign to gauge if Muslims wanted amendments to the practice. It is not getting the kind of support it got in 1980 in Shah Bano case. There is huge awareness and Muslim women have started asserting their rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

We have moved well beyond idle debates on this subject. Anecdotal evidence, empirical data, court observations and Law Commission findings suggest that there is little support for triple talaq among even the members of the community. It seems ironic that Indians are still debating the merits and demerits of abolishing a regressive social custom such as triple talaq when several Islamic countries have discontinued the practice.

Formed in 2007, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) started a debate on reforming the Muslim Personal Law, which governs matters such as marriage and divorce. The BMMA claims that the AIMPLB and the clergy have misinterpreted the Quran by allowing practices such as triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala. It has filed a case in the Supreme Court asking for a ban on triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala. The BMMA says instant oral triple talaq must end and proper procedure of divorce in three months, with prior efforts of reconciliation, should be strictly followed.

The fate of India as a truly modern, secular nation or a repository of regressive customs that tramples on the rights of its citizens will rest with all of us. Triple talaq should have been abolished long back and it has been delayed because of no political will at the cost of basic dignity to women belonging to the Muslim community. The pride and self-respect of Indians will be achieved only when a uniform civil code comes into force and everybody enjoys basic human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

Ashok Goel is a Delhi BJP spokesperson

Call for ban votebank politics by Centre, BJP: Chatter Singh
In my opinion triple talaq is not a human rights issue at all. It is a religious practice followed by the Muslim community. Such religious matters should not be dragged into the courts and the state should also not interfere in religious practices of any community.

The Centre’s stand on banning triple talaq is simply votebank politics. The BJP is politicising the issue to woo voters in the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. We need to understand why the BJP-led government is talking only of triple talaq. Except for certain matriarchal societies, such as those in parts of the Northeast, most women still have no right to agricultural land. A large number of women still defecate in open fields for want of proper toilet facilities. We are not talking about core issues concerning women in our country. All we are talking about is triple talaq. It would be better if the saffron brigade starts looking at gender justice in all aspects.

I once again reiterate that the State should not interfere in anyone’s religious practices. It should rather focus on governance and welfare measures for its citizens. Even the rights bestowed by religion should not be questioned in any court of law. In fact, the Delhi high court had earlier ruled that a couple’s divorce is invalid if the husband pronounces talaq in anger or fails to communicate it to his wife, leaving no scope for reconciliation.

In any developed country, the law is made after consultation with stakeholders. But the BJP-led Centre has joined the debate on triple talaq with infectious belligerence to ensure a Hindu-Muslim divide. In Islam, marriage is a social contract with clear conditions to be noted down in a nikahnama (marriage contract). It also provides for affirmative provisions for a bride such as mehr (dower). The holy book gives equal rights to both husband and wife to seek divorce.

The Sachar Committee Report has established that Indian Muslims are marginalised and they live in poverty and socio-economic backwardness. It is very important that ordinary Muslim women and men are educated about the Quranic principles of justice and fairness concerning divorce. Muslim women can get justice through a comprehensive reform in Muslim personal law based on a Quranic framework. This is permitted by the Constitution as well.

Studies suggest that talaq-related issues are far less in Muslims in comparison to other communities. Every now and then we hear about married men having live-in relationships with other women. We need to address such issues on a priority basis as they are not only eating into our social fabric but are also denying married women their legitimate, legal and emotional rights.

It is high time we stop talking about beef politics, Babri Masjid and triple talaq and focus more on development activities for the welfare of our citizens. Our voters are mature enough to understand the nefarious designs of right-wing extremists who want to divide communities simply to wrest power in the coming elections.

Instead of promoting communal harmony, the BJP is simply spreading hatred by raking up contentious issues. The triple talaq issue has already united Muslims in poll-bound UP. Several Muslim bodies have criticised the Centre’s stand, calling it a violation of a citizen’s right to freedom of religion. Some Muslim leaders have even appealed to their community members to follow the example of pro-Jallikattu protesters in Tamil Nadu to support the Islamic practice. At the end of the day, the triple talaq issue is going to cost the BJP dearly in the coming polls.

(As told to Sanjay Kaw)
Chatter Singh is a Delhi Congress leader

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