Home > 2018 > Triple Talaaq Bill

Mainstream, VOL LVI No 12 New Delhi March 10, 2018

Triple Talaaq Bill

Monday 12 March 2018

by Noor Zaheer

The much hyped Triple Talaaq Bill did not manage to go through the Rajya Sabha and the blame game has done the expected rounds with the Opposition and ruling parties accusing and counter-accusing each other and of course the media crying itself hoarse. This has become the square with the Muslim clergy forming the fourth angle and the Muslim woman, who was supposed to be the sufferer, the plaintiff and the beneficiary, being reduced to a non-entity.

Personal laws have been in existence mainly to cater to the requirements of the men of any particular community, seeing that they are based on norms, customs and beliefs of the religious directions. When a step is taken to open a discussion on such laws, it is expected to put across such changes that would help ease the situation for the group that has been discriminated against—in this case the Muslim woman. The question may well be asked if the present structure of the Bill, as presented and voted in favour of in the Lok Sabha, really holds out some promise of advantage for the Muslim woman.

To begin with triple talaaq is a one-time, irrevocable divorce, pronounced by the man and can in no way be challenged or not accepted by the woman. Though this is considered wrong in the Quran, it is allowed by the Sharia and hence much in practice by the Sunni Muslims. The Bill attempts to make this form of divorce illegal and goes on to propose that it be made a punishable criminal offence, with three years of imprisonment for the culprit. How much does such a Bill, or Law if it becomes one, profit the Muslim woman?

Does she get a right to contest the divorce? The Sharia gives the woman the right to hear the marriage proposal, weigh the pros and cons, consider the meher (dower), put across her conditions if she has any and then accept or reject the proposal. However, once in a relationship, she has no say in accepting or rejecting a divorce. It is there and she has to accept it. The Bill does not include giving her this constitutional right, where she can oppose a divorce given single-handedly. However, if it is a woman who wishes to divorce her husband, she does not have the same right of pronouncing divorce single-handedly and getting out of the marriage. The Bill, that has been publicised as giving justice to the Muslim woman, does not take into consideration that ‘khula’ or the divorce that a woman asks for, should be made simpler and woman-friendly.

More importantly, the Bill does not address the issue of polygamy which has always been a way out for Muslim men and even men from other communities, who can convert to Islam and take another wife. A Muslim man is allowed four wives; what is to stop a Muslim man marrying again without divorcing the first wife? Since polygamy for a Muslim man is not an offence, the Bill by not addressing it is providing the easy way out for him.

While the Bill aims to make triple talaaq a punishable offence, it makes no provision for the woman by way of maintenance, alimony, share in property etc. And this is where the women’s groups fighting for the rights of Muslim women need to take up this issue and address it with the perspective of the life that a Muslim woman would have after divorce. While triple talaaq in one go is an outright rejection of a relationship and discarding away of responsi-bility by the man, life does continue even after a divorce. The Bill is not attempting to make any provision for the woman left alone, usually with a couple of children. The man, on the other hand, when and if the Bill is passed, and that might only be a few months away when the BJP has a majority in the Rajya Sabha, is proven guilty of a crime and sent for three years to a jail. The divorce in a period of three years then naturally becomes a reality; all the while the man is a ‘state guest’ and the woman is in the same position as before, with nothing provided for! How just is that?

A point to be reflected here is that the women’s organisations, which have taken up the cause and are also co-plaintiffs, are not considering these issues. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, for example, claims to be contesting against triple talaaq because it is against the Quran. They are fighting for the rights of women as dictated by the Quran and now mis-interpreted by the Muslim clergy. However, the Quran is silent on so many issues, for example, the amount of alimony entitlement, maintenance for the children, share in the property that the woman might have contributed to and so much more. What about the issue of polygamy? Something that is allowed in the Quran but is against the Indian Constitution? The age of marriage for the girl, which the Quran says is on reaching puberty but the Indian Constitution says it should be eighteen years? More and more women are working and contributing to the income of the family. What is the settlement prescribed by the Quran in the divorce settlement? None of this is being addressed either by the litigants, the Bill or the women’s groups.

As a first, to give some justice to the Muslim woman, the right to pronounce a divorce as becoming legally binding rests with the kaazi who stamps a Talaaqnama, completing the legal formality. Often this happens on the whim of the kaazi or by greasing his palm. Often these kaazis are also known to have put in a line to assert that the ‘meher’ has been paid. This stamp has to be immediately taken away from the kaazi/maulvi. Whether triple talaaq or any other kind has to be properly registered with the local judicial body.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has already declared the triple talaaq in one sitting as void; so there is really no need for a Bill to be prepared and presented in Parliament.

The objective behind this Bill is really not to benefit the Muslim woman or else all these issues that haunt the Muslim woman should have been taken care of and addressed. As society has progressed and norms have changed, the position of the woman has also undergone a change. The Bill, while attempting to shame the Muslim male and punish him for something that is not a criminal offence, is doing nothing for the Muslim woman.

The author is a writer, theatre personality and woman activist.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62 Privacy Policy Notice Addressed to Online Readers of Mainstream Weekly in view of European data privacy regulations (GDPR)