‘Sharia law can be continued till the last day on earth’

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 has divided Muslim women down the middle. The Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which led the demand for a ban on triple talaq, is rooting for the Bill. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board claims it is anti-women and a home-breaker. Jyoti Shelar speaks to both sides

April 17, 2018 12:20 am | Updated 04:35 pm IST

Which aspects of the Bill are anti-women?

In August 2017, a Supreme Court order set aside instant talaq with three pronouncements in one sitting. It resolved the issue, so what was the need for this Bill? Islam gives women the liberty to exit a marriage, but this Bill puts women in a complicated situation: the husband can be jailed for triple talaq , but the marriage remains intact. Making divorce difficult will lead to abandonment and put women in socio-economic problems. This is gender injustice. The children will suffer financially and psychologically while the father is in jail. Criminalising triple talaq will lead to extramarital affairs, more domestic violence and crimes against women. The Muslim community doesn’t need these social evils.

Is the outsider view of triple talaq as a prevalent problem wrong?

Muslims are faced with illiteracy, economic backwardness, lack of security and identity. Talaq is a non-issue for them, so the rest of India shouldn’t waste their time and energy looking for solutions. The country is facing much bigger problems like female foeticide, bride burning, dowry deaths, rapes, murders and domestic violence. Divorces are few among Muslims. The divorce rate in metro cities has gone up by 30%. Data from family courts in Muslim-majority districts show low divorce rates in the community. Also, Muslim women are free to remarry three months after the divorce.

Will the three-year jail term be a deterrent to triple talaq ?

No. Instead, it’ll make divorces difficult and create problems for women. Men may avoid divorces, and women could remain stuck in a bad marriage. Under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, bigamy or polygamy attracts seven years jail, but the offence is non-cognisable and bailable. No arrests can be made without a valid warrant, and the complainant has to be the wife or her father. This Bill makes triple talaq a cognisable and non-bailable offence. No warrant is needed, and arrests can be made based on a complaint filed by the wife or a member of the public. This Bill makes triple talaq an offence against the State. It is anti-human rights and prone to misuse. It’ll break homes and destroy families.

Was the Bill passed in a hurry by the Lok Sabha?

Yes. Not just hurriedly, parliamentary procedure wasn’t followed. Legal experts and religious scholars from the community weren’t consulted. Some sections of the Bill contradict each other: in the first half, it lays down that the marriage remains intact and such talaq is null and void, but the last sub-section deals with children’s custody. How does the question of deciding custody arise when the marriage is intact? It also mentions that the mother must get custody of the children, but doesn’t consider the child’s welfare if the mother is unable to support herself financially. This is against child rights.

This government has clearly hyped the issue by claiming that Muslim women are suffering, but divorce is a one-time grief for a woman, and she can move on. Over the past two months, nearly one crore Muslim women have protested publicly against the Bill. It cannot be imposed on the community by the ruling party.

Should Sharia law be continued with?

Sharia laws are based on the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad. They cannot be changed. There is no need for reform. The problem lies in society; mindsets need to be changed to bring in social reform. Sharia law can be continued till the last day on earth.

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