Government and AIMPLB must empower Muslim women to solve triple talaq issue
Instead of meddling with personal laws, the Centre can contribute in other ways.
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The government intends to prohibit triple talaq practice through constitutional amendment for the betterment of Indian Muslim women, whose marital life is instantly spoiled by the utterance of the three words on the whim of the husband.
Triple talaq through the instant messaging methods of mobile and internet or in drunken condition without giving the couple the opportunity of reconciliation is undesirable, according to Islamic jurisprudence.
Many Muslim countries have already abolished this method. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), an umbrella body for safeguarding Islamic laws in India, opposes the government's intervention in personal laws of Muslims.
However, it now advocates the formulation of some guidelines according to Islamic law to discourage practices of divorce that are not in compliance with religion. The AIMPLB also plans to create awareness and suggests social boycott for those men who adopt unlawful methods for separation.
Beyond the religious line, if the practice of triple talaq violates rights and creates a sense of insecurity among Muslim women, then it is the responsibility of both the government and AIMPLB to take measures to redress complaints about the same within the ambit of the Constitution.
The divorce issue is widely linked with Muslim women though the highest rate of divorce in India is among Christians and Buddhists. As per Census 2011, the crude divorce rate - number of divorces per thousand female population - was 2.53 among Muslims, 2.66 among Christians and 3.33 among Buddhists. The number for separated women is lowest among Muslim women - 3.43 - and the highest among Buddhists, 7.12, and Christians, 6.65, for the year 2011.
Before the divorce or separation, a mechanism needs to be formed for reconciliation among couples, with divorce being regarded as the last solution to avoid the worst circumstances, such as torture by husband or suicide.
Along with divorce, suicide is another major social evil that has caused the deaths of 6,95,000 women during the last 15 years, from 2000 to 2015. Interestingly, the most common reason behind suicide among women was found to be family problems - 40 per cent - and then marriage-related issues, 9 per cent, in the year 2015.
Women are also badly treated by family members in the absence of divorce; incidences of cruelty against women by husband and his relatives were 1,13,403, according to NCRB estimates for 2015.
Before the divorce or separation, a mechanism needs to be formed for reconciliation among couples. Photo: Reuters
The aforementioned figures apparently indicate that women, irrespective of religious affiliation, are maligned via different means in our male-dominated society.
To avoid danger to a woman in a bad marriage and during family conflict, divorce is permissible and considered as a solution under Indian laws.
However, its instant imposition without an effort towards reconciliation has the whooping impact on the couple, specifically on the future livelihood of the woman as she is more financially dependent on the male partner.
Empowering of women could avert its bad consequences as they could become more self-reliant. Instead of meddling with personal laws, the government can contribute largely towards empowerment of Muslim women via reforms in education, health, employment and representation in legislative bodies - so that they can take better decisions and become capable of managing unwanted situations.
Out of 429 lakh married Muslim women, only 2 lakh women are affected by divorce but the illiterate women make up 267 lakh (38 per cent) of total 702 lakh women.
Muslim women also have fewer opportunities in higher education - only three per cent have attained the graduation level according to the 2011 Census while their share is less than five per cent in enrolment for higher education, according to 2014-15 data.
An estimate derived from a government survey conducted in 2014 on education showed that 20 per cent Muslim women between 5-29 years of age discontinued education due to financial constraints and 23 per cent due to engagement in domestic services, while this number for boys was 30 per cent due to financial issues and 24 per cent due to engagement in economic activities.
Muslim women are largely underrepresented in state legislative bodies and Parliament. They constitute around 7 per cent of the country’s population but have worse representation than men in Parliament.
According to the population ratio, their ideal representation should be around 35 out of 543 seats but unfortunately only four and three candidates won in the last two parliamentary elections of 2014 and 2009, respectively.
Uttar Pradesh, a state with 19 per cent Muslim population, doesn’t have any Muslim woman representative. The BJP, a party raising the triple talaq issue ostensibly for the betterment of Muslim women, did not consider allotting a single ticket to Muslim women in the recent Assembly and earlier parliamentary elections.
Similarly, the government can find wider scope for empowerment of Muslim women in many other segments.
The AIMPLB also can’t rid itself of responsibility by calling the proposed ban on triple talaq as unconstitutional and an act of interference by the government in personal laws.
Empowerment of women should be initiated within the community itself. The AIMPLB needs to formulate a detailed multi-prolonged vision with the help of all stakeholders for the betterment of Muslim women in India - and a line of action must also be laid down against triple talaq.