It is known by different names, some abhor it as a beacon of male hegemony and some hold it close to them because it is a part of their tradition. Triple talaq or instant talaq bill is one of the most discussed subject that is tossed year to year and has managed to still survive.
A study by The Hindu suggests that 66.5% of the divorced Muslim women were victims of triple talaq (a sample size of 4,710 women out of this number, 525 were divorced, 349 were divorced by triple talaq or instant talaq). The Muslim men have made a mockery out of women. Triple talaq over a Whats App message, triple talaq over the phone, triple talaq via speed post, this represent the insignificance of a woman’s identity in a man’s eyes.
Some cases are even appalling to the extent that a woman in Madhya Pradesh received triple talaq from her husband when she was asleep and the reason was even more ridiculous. The husband gave instant talaq to his wife because she did not wake up when the husband came home late after work.
According to Census 2011, the number of divorced Muslim women is 78.7% that is for every divorced Muslim man there are four divorced Muslim women. This indicates that more Muslim men are remarrying, thus instant talaq enables them to quickly move from one marriage into another. On the one hand, a divorce court case (civil case) with mutual consent takes on an average six months to one year and contesting divorce can drag on for longer. On the other, instant talaq, liberates a man from his marriage in 3 months with no liabilities.
The hetero-normative male public sphere feels threatened with single women as they become independent of relational attributes. She is no longer subordinate to a man but can act in her own interest without bothering about the ‘shame’ she will bring to the ‘man’s’ name.
The pronouncement of divorce against Muslim women reeks of the authority of a man to control her even at the rim of separation from her perpetrator. The present Muslim PersonalLaw emphasizes that talaq is the unilateral right of the man and the woman is not entitled to it. Thus, signifying the lower status of a woman. Woman lacks the power to take divorce as orthodox tradition symbolize her as ‘fitna’ (potential disorder), therefore it is necessary to chain her to a man who can discipline her.
The power of pronouncing divorce by a Muslim woman is also vested with the husband by talaq-e-tafweedh, since this right can only be transferred to the wife by the husband.
Even in ‘Khula’(means ‘separation by way of consent between the parties’)which is uttered by a woman stands valid only if the male accepts it, upon terms where the wife agrees to repay her ‘Mehr’ (dowry) to the husband in exchange of agreeing to grant talaq.
The sub text of the discourse on the present Muslim Personal Law is that men think coherently and make decisions as opposed to women who usually just act on the basis of their emotions. As such it is hoped that by granting the right of talaq to a husband divorce will be much less likely to occur than if the right of talaq is granted to the wife. This, as elaborated by RadenAdjengKartini; a Muslim feminist from Indonesia, clearly restricts a woman’s legal capacity and garners political linkage of conservatives to a secular state.
The establishment of civil registration and deregistration as the only legal signifier of marriage and divorce respectively, requiring use of a civil court will help in the equalization principle which is lacking currently. The domesticated and subjugated feminity is integral to the practice of instant talaq.
It should not be seen as a battle ground of either religious identities or political inclinations but rather as a mechanism to empower thoroughly victimized women and bring an end to the age old regressive law.
There are four broad oppositions to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017. First, the involvement of stakeholders who can supplement the bill with insights of real challenges and experiences of victims. Second, the punishment of three years of imprisonment is too harsh for personal law.Thirdly, the lack of details on the liability of subsistence for the wife and lastly, who and how will the rehabilitation and livelihood generation of divorced women be taken care of.
The involvement of stakeholder is very important to develop a social order from a bottom-up approach. But it is important that the stakeholders are ‘adequate’ stakeholders. All India Muslim Personal Law Board in my opinion does not qualify as an adequate stakeholder, since the women representation in theirExecutive Committee and General Committee are 10% and 19% respectively. Only Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are the two states with 55.6% women in their General Committee. There are no female members on the board from Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, Odisha, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand. One cannot expect a male dominant organization to comprehensively articulatewomen rights.
Second, after the verdict on Shah Bano Case, the Muslim men did not stop practicing triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat there in my opinion a punitive law would deter the practice to a large extend. Even, the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, seen in the light of atrocities against women, punishes the attempt to commit sati with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both.
The person who abets sati is punishable by death or imprisonment for life and is also liable to fine. Even the glorification of sati is punished with imprisonment for a term of atleast one year but can be extended to 7 years and with a fine of not less than 5,000 INR and extend to 30,000 INR. This has significantly stopped this practice across India and Rajasthan in particular, therefore in my opinion a law like the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 will show positive results soon.
The bill suggests that the creation of gendered legal subjectivities is directed at reshaping the broader social order.
Third, the subsistence given to victimscannot be defined in the act but should be left to the discretion of the court on case by case basis since it should depend on the financial condition of the husband therefore eradicating the monetary pressure on the husband beyond his ability to maintain.
Lastly, the government schemes especially under Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of MinorityAffairs like SwadharGreh, Nai Manzil, Nai Roshni, etc. remain valid to women in difficult circumstances. These schemes can play a vital role in long term livelihood generation through skill development and educational training, residential requirements and rehabilitation of Muslim women victims of triple talaq.
In 1985, Congress Government’s decision to overturn the Supreme Court’s judgement in favour of Shah Bano was essentially to please the Ulema/clergies. This displayed that the secular and liberal ideology of Congress is superficial and all that mattered to them were votes. A strong political stature is displayed in times of turmoil, which clearly lacked in this decision. Therefore, the current introduction of the bill is an opportunity to rectify previous mistakes rather than hammer them back.
I am not a supporter of the current right hardliner political leadership, yet I believe this law is a step in favour of women at large. Women rights are human rights which are inviolable. Making a choice between human rights and religious practices is totally an absurd idea. Therefore, this bill is a much-required step and should not be thrashed down only to satiate political win points but should be seen as a feminist and human rights issue. Having said that, the question still remains whether the bill will see the dawn of the day at the next budget session of the Rajya Sabha or will suffer an untimely death?