- Niyaz Farooqui
- BBC, New Delhi
In 2017, when the Supreme Court declared instant instant triple talaq unconstitutional, one of the petitioners in the case, Afreen Rehman, was happy that the unilateral and instant triple talaq granted by her husband a few months ago is now clear. illegal
But contrary to his expectations, the situation did not change much. Her husband refused to reconcile her. Five years later, today they don’t know if their marriage is permanent or if they are divorced.
Afreen Rahman is not the only Muslim woman in India to face this Surat-e-Hal. Activists who work for women’s rights say that the five petitioners in the popular case of triple talaq are still “divorced”.
These activists say that unlike triple talaq in the past, there has also been an increase in cases of men leaving their wives without divorcing over the past five years.
Jameela Nishat, who heads the Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association in Hyderabad, says her activists studied several cases in 20 slums in the city after the court’s decision and found startling numbers.
He said that “Of the 2,106 houses we surveyed, in 683 houses, the husbands had left the wives without divorcing.”
leaving women without divorce
Women’s rights activists point out that what has made Surat-e-Hal more complicated is the ‘Muslim Women (Protection of Marriage) Bill, 2019’ for Muslim women.
The government enacted this law following the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision when the court’s decision immediately struck down the practice of instant triple talaq.
The new law made triple talaq a crime, punishing a husband with three years in prison, but the fear of prison has given many men the opportunity to ignore the law by leaving women without a divorce, allowing them to there is freedom from any kind of responsibility for the work.
This is a kind of legal and social challenge for women.
Jameela says that “we usually have two to three cases of missing persons without divorce in the first few days, but after the law was enacted in 2019, there has been a sudden increase in these cases.”
Zakia Soman, the co-founder of Indian Muslim Mahila Andolan, an organization working for women’s rights, was one of the petitioners in the triple talaq case. He says the court’s decision and subsequent legislation have produced mixed results.
Zakia Soman says, “It is a contradictory result especially when it comes to these petitioners in the court as none of them were recovered by their husbands.
“In at least four of these five cases, the husbands have remarried and have children, while these women are still single.
“There has been an awareness among people that this is not Allah’s law and because of this, the cases of triple talaq have reduced to a great extent.”
things are changing
But experts and social activists working on women’s rights agree that an important result of this decision and the law has been that cases of instant triple talaq have dropped in the last five years.
Zakia says that “our volunteers present in different states report that the number of triple talaq cases has come down very definitely.”
The social level among Muslims has also increased awareness about triple talaq in recent years and people have realized that the method of giving instant triple talaq is a ‘biddat’.
Experts say this is true for both Muslim men and women.
Ziaoussalam, a senior journalist and author of a book on marriage issues, says things have changed so much in the last five years that women are becoming more aware of their rights.
Ziaussalam says, “Muslim women got their voice after this decision and especially the Shaheen Bagh movement, but unfortunately all is not well.
“The court did not ask the husband to take back his ‘divorced’ wife. She was neither fully married nor divorced. Five years later, she still stands where she was when she first approached the Supreme Court”
This also means that they did not get any help from their husbands in the form of ‘Haq-e-Mehr’.
What is the truth?
According to some Sharia laws, there are Talaq-e-Ahsan and Talaq-e-Hasan and they are granted for a period of three months and are unilateral from the male side.
Other forms of separation of husband and wife in Islam include khula (which takes place at the behest of the wife) and mubarat (which requires mutual consent).
Supreme Court lawyer Shahrukh Alam says women can open unilaterally.
Shahrukh Alam says, “If the wife decides that she wants Khula, then the qazi can definitely say that he should try to resolve it through dialogue, but the husband will have to admit it openly, if the wife has Mehr and other rights. up”.
But in practice it is much more complicated. According to Shahrukh Alam, “Often when a legal notice comes, the husband is slow to respond or refuses to respond.”
Jameela has also come to the same conclusion after talking to many women on the subject of marital conflict.
The ban on triple talaq and its related laws have made men realize that if they divorce wrongfully, they will become criminals, but if they leave women without talaq, the women will be forced to accept the husband’s terms.
Jameela says, “Now the attitude is that the girl should harass herself so much. That’s why we are now getting more cases of Khula than triple talaq. That means the woman should be deprived of the his rights like Mehr and Nafqa. He will have it.”
Arshiya Begum, 23, got married in October 2021, but violence from her in-laws forced her to file for divorce, although the husband refused to divorce and asked her to open .
Arshiya says she agreed, but tells her husband that she will open on a condition that he agrees to write on a piece of paper that Khula’s motive is violence against her and her family.
The husband did not agree with this. Arshiya’s mother asked her to open it without writing about violence as it would make the process easier for her.
Arshiya says, “But I said why should I? Why should I take the blame for what my husband and his relatives did? They are good despite the violence in the society but I am bad even after tolerating everything.”
Arshiya’s struggle continues
Jameela says “a girl doesn’t want a divorce.” She wants to be with her family. Where else will he go because he often doesn’t have the skills to start his life over.
But even when a woman has the power to make her own decisions independently, the pressure of society and the patriarchal system makes her life difficult.
After all efforts, Afreen tries to marry again after not talking to her husband, but luck does not support her.
Naseem Akhtar, an activist working for women’s rights, helped Afreen take her case to the Supreme Court. She says that “Afreen’s case has become so famous that people are afraid of Afreen.”
Says Naseem Akhtar, “The day the court’s decision on triple talaq came, Afreen’s face was on every TV channel. When her boss saw her, she was immediately fired from her job saying you are a woman so smart there’s a case against her. your husband. She went to the Supreme Court.”
In such cases, influence on society does not necessarily prove to be useful all the time.
Naseem says that “for example, look at the case of Afreen himself.” Her husband was well educated, he received a law degree from a great institute and her father worked in the government, and Afreen is also middle class and educated.
She says “but it’s definitely more in the lower strata.” Most cases come from villages, slums, where there is an acute shortage of education and resources.
Why is it so difficult for women despite the law?
Shahrukh Alam explains the reason for this as social and political.
Referring to the divorce rate between Muslims and other communities in India, Shahrukh Alam says that this reform has nothing to do with the situation within the community.
Many Muslims see these measures as an intrusion into their personal affairs, especially when the divorce rates between Muslims and Hindus do not differ much.
According to the 2011 census, two out of every 1000 married Hindus are divorced and 3.7 out of every 1000 married Muslims are divorced.
Muslim analysts say this figure is often exaggerated and blown out of proportion.
But the popularity of such measures among Muslims is also lower because they fear that it could also be used to criminalize their personal marital conflicts.
Zakia, a staunch supporter of this law, says, “This law is not a great law, but it could have been improved. There should have been some conditions. Two or three divorce sections could have been retained. which would ensure that the problem is solved from the root.”
He further says that “the second problem was that the law should have said what the rights of women are in case of divorce”.
He says that it is not possible to achieve everything under the law, but in this a clue could have been given.
the fight continues
The ruling BJP in India has been active in pushing this issue in the name of Muslim women’s rights, so many Muslims see it as a political ploy.
But analysts say Muslims actively aspire to change, despite the conservative thinking of ordinary people.
Zakia, who has been working with Muslim women since the early 2000s, says Indian Muslims are not only ready for change, but actively seeking change.
Zakia says, “Accept the fact that doing wrong things increases Islamophobia and promotes Hindutva politics.
“When the common Muslim knows that Allah does not want him to do this, then he thinks why he should do it.”
With another example of change, Ziaussalam points out that most people still don’t understand this progress.
Ziaoussalam says: “Last year a group of women went to pray in mosques in 16 cities in the country. They hardly faced any resistance. They managed to get their due, which Allah has given them , which they have given them. It gives them. the right to offer prayers in the mosque whenever they want.
But Zia wonders that “why should even an unmarried woman suffer because a man deliberately distorted the message of the Quran?”
He says the fight is on and “this is just the beginning.”
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