Reforms in Muslim marriage laws is an idea whose time has come

Even 70 years after Independence, women are still to get the rights guaranteed to them under Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

 |  3-minute read |   13-10-2016
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When Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau was asked why there were 50 per cent women in his cabinet, he replied, "because this is 2016". 

It's 2016 in India too. Yet even 70 years after Independence, women are still to get the rights guaranteed to them under Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

Muslim women face a double burden. Not only are they unequal to men, they are in many ways unequal to the women from the Hindu community as well, who have, however grudgingly, been guaranteed more rights by way of maintenance, property and marriage.

There is no kind way to say this. The minorities by and large do not trust this government. They do not believe the government's move to do away with triple talaq is motivated entirely by its concern for Muslim women.

They are convinced that the timing of the move has a lot to do with the forthcoming Assembly elections in UP. It should not be forgotten that the Jan Sangh, the BJP's earlier avatar, bitterly opposed Jawaharlal Lal Nehru's move to grant rights to Hindu women.

Be that as it may, reform in Muslim marriage laws, and doing away with the tyranny of triple talaq is an idea whose time has come. Rather than obdurately opposing this much-needed reform, the community leaders should be driving this reform.

Triple talaq and Nikah halla (making it incumbent on Muslim women remarrying their husbands to first marry and consummate the relationship with another man before remarrying the first husband, and Mutta (temporary marriage) should have been done away as early as of yesterday.

muswomenmarriagebdre_101316090244.jpg Reform in Muslim marriage laws, and doing away with the tyranny of triple talaq is an idea whose time has come. (Photo: Reuters)

As far as the larger question of bringing in a Uniform Civil Code is concerned, the government needs to deal with this issue in a sensitive manner. Rather than attempt to ram it down people's throat, it needs to launch an awareness drive on what it proposes to do and what this entails for the communities concerned.

It needs to explain that its proposals for reforms in marriage and family laws is meant to help provide a more level playing field for Muslim women and to bring them on par with women of other communities.

This kind of approach is bound to find favour amongst Muslim women, besides taking care of the clergy led propaganda that talk of reform is merely a ruse to interfere with the way they practice their religion.

Muslim women have increasingly begun to challenge the reluctance of their men folk to agree to reforms in marriage laws. Though many women organisations from within the Muslim community have approached the apex court calling for an end to the practice of triple talaq, they are opposed to a Uniform Civil Code for the country.

"Rather than a Uniform Civil Code what we need is gender reform in Muslim marriage laws," says Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz,  co-founder of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA). She says there is a strong suspicion that under the garb of bringing in a Uniform Civil Code, the government will try and impose Hindu marriage laws on other communities. Her views are echoed by my colleague Seemi Pasha.

Hopefully voices like these will grow louder in the days ahead.

Also read: How brave Muslim women are leading a quiet revolution to reform Islamic law

Writer

Javed M Ansari Javed M Ansari @javedmansari

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst.

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