The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a secular mass organisation that works for the welfare of Muslim women, demanded that the incidents of child marriages among the Muslim community should be registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) and the law must specifically mention it.
Addressing a press conference on the issue on Saturday in Mumbai, Noorejahan Safia Niaz, BMMA co-founder, demanded a codified Muslim family law and said, “While the comprehensive legislation is yet to happen, the government must ensure that the PCMA, 2006 becomes expressly applicable to the Muslim community.”
In 2015, the BMMA published a national study of 4,710 respondents on Muslims’s views on reforms in Muslim personal law. 55% of respondents were below the age of 18, out of which 15% were below the age of 15 years of age. A study done in Maharashtra, showed, out of 505 women, 333 were married on or before turning 18 years. The position paper by the body points out, “As per the 2011 census, child marriage is rampant amongst Hindus at 31.3% and 30.6% amongst in Muslims.”
Khatun Shaikh, BMMA’s Maharashtra convenor said, “We have seen a drastic decrease in the number of triple talaq cases after the court held it to be illegal. We also want the same result with child marriage. The government needs to take care of Muslim women and children. We are all equal as per the Indian Constitution, therefore we must all get the same protection.”
The body also highlighted the need to ban the practice of polygamy and halala for the Muslim community. In a study done by BMMA, “84% women feel that polygamy should be made illegal, 73% women feel that husbands indulging in polygamy should be punished and 50% women suffer from mental trauma such as depression, self-blaming and suicidal tendencies.” Ms. Niaz also mentioned that men indulging into polygamy must be booked under section 494 (marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) of the Indian Penal Code.
Husna Shaikh, working with BMMA for two decades said, “We have seen generations of women and children suffer because of polygamy. This must end. The amount of trauma and pain the woman goes through needs to stop by the wrath of the law.”
Author and great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Tushar Gandhi present at the conference supported the causes and said, “Child marriage is a form of human trafficking, it is not about religion and polygamy is a sin and should not be allowed. It is about the rights of women and children which are guaranteed to them.”
A public interest litigation filed by the BMMA in the Supreme Court led to the banning of Triple Talaq and a petition by the group before the Bombay High Court allowed the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai.