Triple talaq bill: Is it a social reform or a political weapon?

If one sees exploitation occurring around them, the first reaction should be to interfere.

 |  5-minute read |   06-01-2018
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The triple talaq bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha. That is a victory for women, democracy, as well as secularism, but not many people see it that way yet.

Let us consider the plight of the average woman in the world today, with US President Donald Trump also being charged with sexual assault in a lot of anecdotal references. Let us also consider the plight of the average Muslim in India, and now consider the plight of women in this light. There is no case one can argue in favour of the men, the husbands of the country, with regard to an issue of their wives’ rights, especially in the case of a right that is well known to be necessary for any human being, not just a Muslim woman.

In the 1980s, when Rajiv Gandhi interfered in the famous Shah Bano case, there were protests that the interference was setting up a dangerous precedent. Thirty years later, the politics of polarisation has resulted in a short, but dangerous history of demolitions, riots, burning of trains, and attacks on non-vegetarians. Now that the government in power, which may well have benefited from the said bloody history, is trying to undo the damage, people (mostly men) are protesting against the new law. They cite that it would be contrary to the prescriptive morals of their way of life. And from their point of view, they may even be right. But the fact remains that a large number of women suffer and have suffered due to the obvious disproportionate distribution of rights between men and women when it comes to the subject of breaking marriages.

Some would even say that divorce should be outlawed in Hindu societies, which is also symptomatic of the lack of rights women share globally. The other extreme would say that divorce is fine, but that only men have exclusive rights with regard to divorce. How on earth can one justify the ending of a marriage so arbitrarily when even relationships are seemingly impossible to let go of in an arbitrary fashion?

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The question of the legitimacy of the bill to criminalise triple talaq is not even relevant here. An appeal to one’s most basic shred of a conscience is enough to justify the legitimacy of women’s rights. Have we all disrespected women so strongly for so long that one has to argue that women and men should have equal rights to say the least? Whether this new policy and corresponding law of the Hindu-majority government will be beneficial in the practical sphere or not is subject to the tides of time, but the sheer legitimacy of this law is unquestionable in most commonly held views on ethics. The rest is our choice, sociological or ideological.

Secularism implies non-interference in social matters pertaining to religion. However, women’s rights along with many other rights ordinarily considered fundamental to democratic societies are more important for the larger sake of secularism itself. How can it be that through non-interference in social laws the government can protect social rights?

Interference of any sort in the metaphysical sphere of things in understandable, but Lord Benedict’s arguments for criminalising Sati a few centuries in the past under the influence of Raja Rammohan Roy, one of India’s premier intellectuals, is as valid today as it was then.

If one sees exploitation occurring around them, the first reaction should be to interfere, as positively as possible, to curb that exploitation. The BJP government may hold allegations of inhumanity against them, but a step towards egalitarianism is far more human than burning women alive for dowry, arbitrarily breaking marriages which are alleged to be made in heaven, or forcing girls into child labour. The very fact that the Opposition is not opposing this bill severely is enough proof that even our liberally hated politicians of Delhi are synergistically showing signs of reform.

When the Congress majority government of the 1950s decided to implement a uniform codification of all personal law with respect to Hindu law, the then right wing had decided to oppose such change. Now, it is believed that the right-wing government in power may be stepping further towards a uniform civil code for all. Uniformity of social policing notwithstanding, the fate of women is an issue in its own right, globally, and should not be denigrated to a low-key fight for communal compartmentalising.

Demonetisation may have allegedly been a failure. However, politically it benefitted Modi, on account of the divide that it created between the rich and poor of our nation. Triple Talaq may be a failure in reality, but it has added to the divide between Muslim women and men.

If men do not wish for militaristic feminism in the manner of communist militarism between haves and have-nots, they should tread this line further, namely that of the middle path, protecting women rights without allowing rogue elements to twist the debate in their patriarchal favour.

Sooner or later, the consciousness of matriarchy shall step in and destroy the absurd injustices of a thousand years. But until then, the men, leaders, minority spokespersons and such should be forewarned. Women are human, as human as our grandfathers who drove out the British, and eventually, an evil establishment fails through its own contradictions.

Also read: Bulldozing triple talaq bill in Parliament is unconstitutional and disservice to Muslim women

Writer

Mrinal Pradhan Mrinal Pradhan @mrinalpradhan13

The author is doing his masters in philosophy from the University of Lucknow.

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