Over the years the Muslim women’s journey from the Shah Bano case to the Shayara Bano case has been for justice and reforms
O Vijaya Rahatkar
Finally, the day dawned when Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad presented in Lok Sabha a bill against instant Triple Talaq and it was passed as well. December 28 will be marked as a very important day for Muslim women’s rights, because ‘Muslim Women’s Marriage Rights Protection Bill, 2017’ took the first decisive step towards becoming a law on this day. Pronouncing divorce by the Muslim men in one go will be deemed a crime with the passing of this bill.
This bill is perhaps the biggest undertaking after the Independence to offer equal rights to Muslim women. Triple Talaq given in one go – be it orally, through email or through an SMS or Whatsapp – will now be a thing of history. According to this bill, a Muslim husband who divorces his wife through Triple Talaq orally, written or in any electronic form, will be liable to the punishment of three years’ imprisonment, as well as fine.
A new era of self-respect and equality has started for Muslim women. For the BJP, it is a step towards “New India” that aspires to power and dignity of all women. Also, this step reiterates the BJP”s resolve of ‘Appeasement of none and Justice for all’.
Many organisations, including Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), had persistently opposed this draconian ritual. Prime Minister Narendra Modi”s government and the Chief Ministers of several BJP-ruled states left no stone unturned to get justice for Muslim sisters. The government has not only tried to create a social environment but has also taken strong steps to legalise it. PM Modi himself appealed to all the parties to come together for this cause. He said that this bill was to end discrimination against women and give them safety and respect.
It is a travesty that while this bill was being tabled in the Parliament, a sister from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh had to face this injustice. Her only crime was that she had woken up from the sleep a bit late and the husband had divorced her. The case of Gul Afshan is not the first. Earlier, many Muslim women were given instant Triple Talaq for no reason at all through email, Whatsapp and SMS.
That the bill against Triple Talaq was passed in Lok Sabha is no mean feat. A circle from Shah Bano to Shayara Bano has been completed. One might recall the Shah Bano case. The Supreme Court had ordered an alimony of paltry Rs. 127 and ‘Meher’ for that poor 70-year-old divorced woman. However, the Rajiv Gandhi government passed a law in February 1986 under the pressure from Mullahs & Maulvis and snatched away the right from all Muslim mothers and sisters of ‘Meher’ or to approach the court for same.
But here is the Modi government with a reformative approach. That is why the Modi government immediately supported ShayaraBano when she approached the SC in 2015 against the instant Triple Talaq practice. And now the evil of Triple Talaq is about to end. Our Muslim sisters have completed a long journey in this way.
‘Congress, The Sole Culprit’
Saharanpur: Atiya Sabri, the buoyant and progressive female in the Muslim-majority Saharanpur town in Western Uttar Pradesh blames the Congress and the Muslim clerics for the plight of Muslim women.
It is unfortunate that the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has termed this Bill anti-women. Spurious leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi are also opposing it for their petty political interests. In their view, this bill is a violation of the fundamental rights given by the Constitution. One would like to ask them whether these aggrieved women have some fundamental rights or not? Are they just herds of sheep and goats? Do millions of Muslim women in the country not have the right to live with equality and self-respect?
As Shri Prasad said in the Parliament, “This law is not about any worship, faith or religion. It is about self-respect of women. Even after the SC termed Talaq-E-Biddat unconstitutional, more than hundred cases of the kind have come to the fore. What should one call these people, if not criminals? Will this House be a silent spectator if women are subjected to injustice?” With what face will we call ourselves largest democracy of the world when half of our population is treated as animals in the name of religion?” This is an absolute important question we need to ask ourselves.
There are some parties indulging in vote-bank politics and politics of appeasement that are criticizing this bill. To criminalise the instant Triple Talaq and providing for punishment for the same will encourage its misuse, they say. They also argue that who will provide alimony to the victims if the man went to prison.
These are so absurd arguments that one cannot but laugh at it. Going by them, the convicts in the rape, murder or crimes against women should never be sent to prison, because if they go to jail, who will look after their families? What childishness is this? One can understand the case for misuse, but such doubts exist about all the laws. Law on rape is misused sometimes, so should we dispense with the strict provisions against rape? Similarly, Section 498A (Anti-dowry Act) of Indian Penal Code is also one of the most misused. The SC itself has admitted this. If there is a possibility of misuse, and we should not deny it, then we all should get rid of it by coming together. But the criminals of Instant Triple Talaq must be punished for their crimes. A deterrent like this bill is utmost necessary for a healthy society and security of women. Besides, if someone violates the Supreme Court”s order, it is always considered as a criminal offence. To put it simply, the harsh criticism from the opponents is nothing but their political ploys. They are more concerned in securing their own vote bank (Muslim fundamentalists). But now nobody can deny the Muslim mothers and sisters their rights and self-respect.
As for this being an interference in ‘Sharia’, this is an utter lie because this bill is not about faith or Majhab. One cannot see through the political lens. This is not a bill about faith but about the women”s self-respect. Justice Joseph Kurien of Supreme Court of India has beautifully written in his verdict that if this vile practice is deemed to be a sin in the Quran, it should be sin in law as well. It is clear that these allegations have no grain of truth.
Now, we are waiting for this bill to be turned into law as soon as possible so that our Muslim sisters could contribute to the country’s development shoulder to shoulder with other communities. This is the question of aspiration and fate of Nine crore Muslim women. Already more than 50 years have passed. Now there should be no delay for even a moment. Nehruji, Indiraji and Rajivji lost this historic opportunity, but this is the Modi government. We should not allow this historic moment pass in any condition.
(The writer is National President of the BJP Mahila Morcha & Chairperson, Maharashtra State Women Commission)