The Triple Talaq Bill was tabled in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Photograph:( ANI )
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, popularly known as the Triple Talaq Bill, which has been tabled today in the Rajya Sabha for its consideration and clearance, has generated a lot of heat in the political and the media space over the past few days. The bill, which is being touted as the most progressive legislation for the emancipation of Muslim Women in India, is also one of the most polarising one within the community where it divides the population in nearly two halves broadly along the line of the sex of the members. While most of the women, including the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB), are supporting the bill, the men including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) are pitted against it.
The AIMPLB came up with a resolution opposing the Bill where it termed the legislation to be “against the welfare of Muslim women at large” and believed that “it shall harm the interest of Muslim Women and the family” because in its opinion, the Bill fails to take into consideration the “adverse consequences of the proposed law and welfare of the women and children pursuant to a ‘non effective’ Talaq.”
It is pertinent to mention that the Bill has been conceived in the aftermath of a decision by the Supreme Court in August this year in the famous case of Shaiara Bano vs Union of India & Others, wherein the Court had set aside the practice of Instant Triple Talaq among the Muslims as unconstitutional. While putting forth the Bill, a statement of ‘Objects and Reasons of the Bill’ was also brought up by the Ministry of Law that explained, “There is a need for State action to give effect to the order of the Supreme Court and to redress the grievances of victims of illegal divorce. In order to prevent the continued harassment being meted out to the hapless married Muslim women due to Talaq-e-Biddat, urgent suitable legislation is necessary to give some relief to them…The legislation would help in ensuring the larger Constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and would help subserve their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment.”
However, the legislation is a must and its enactment urgent. The government revealed that even after the Supreme Court set aside instant triple talaq in August this year, the practice didn’t stop and more than 60 cases of instant triple talaq were reported in the country since then. Hence, its clear that such a practice isn’t going to stop unless a strong law is put into place.
Shaista Amber, the President of the AIMWPLB had led a Muslim Women delegation to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for a bill on August 8 this year. After the meeting, she had told the media, “We proposed punishment and penalty for those who do not give equal right to women. I am thankful to the government for acting on the issue. AIMPLB is opposing the bill and abusing the rights of women.” While launching a broadside against the AIMPLB, she had fulminated - “Why don’t they (The AIMPLB members) consider Muslim women as equal partners? Why do they want to create a communal feeling among the Muslims when the society is going for reforms? Why are they saying the bill would promote interference in religious matters? Why do they want to protect such men who use women and abandon them at their will?”
The stand of the AIMPLB is terribly flawed on the matter and they no longer carry a locus standi on the proposed Bill from moral as well as a legal perspective.
First, the AIMPLB was an opposing party in the Shaira Bano case in the Supreme Court, which had demolished its arguments on Triple Talaq issue. The AIMPLB had constantly opposed the government's stand in the Triple Talaq case and hence, they're now a defeated party. Thus, they carry no legal and moral standing to dictate the government on the provisions of the proposed law anymore.
Second, their opposition to criminalising the offenders of Triple Talaq or suggestion to reduce the punishment terms is not logical. The whole idea to put forth this legislation is to stop instant triple talaq and the same can't happen unless a strong deterrence is put into place. The said deterrence can happen only through a cognizable and non-bailable provision. Anything below that would defeat the purpose. The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 not only criminalized Sati system but had also provided for life imprisonment or death penalty for the abettors of the crime which served the required deterrence in Sati cases. Hence, any diluted punishment wouldn't solve the purpose.
Thirdly, by opposing the inclusion of "or any similar forms of talaq" in the definition of the Bill, the AIMPLB is trying nothing but attempting a back door legitimacy plan for other similar provisions of Talaq, like Talaq-e-bain, which is even more dangerous.
Talaq-e-bain occurs when a husband speaks to his wife about his intention to no longer live with her, though not clearly speaking the word ‘Talaq’; the husband may express his intention with or without the motive of Talaq. If the intention to live separate was made without the motive of Talaq, the same will not happen. However, if the intention was said with the motive of Talaq, the same will be considered done and the wife will become haram to her husband from that point onward. Talaq-e-bain is instant and it doesn’t require a man to speak the word ‘talaq’ thrice.
Talaq-e-bain is also not supported by Quran or any major Hadith and if the same is left unstopped, it would give a leeway to Muslims to divorce their women instantly without explicitly saying 'talaq' three times, and thus escaping the noose of the proposed law. It's important to see through the AIMPLB game plan.
Thus, if the government wants to achieve the goal of ensuring gender justice and emancipating the Muslim women from the oppression of their men then it’s imperative that all non-Quranic forms of Talaq practices must be outlawed and strong punitive measures must be legislated to act as an effective deterrence against such misogynistic practices.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).