The article originally appeared on India Today.
If Muslim countries including Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt have banned the practice of triple talaq, then how is banning triple talaq in India an anti-Shariat and un-Islamic activity?
The Triple Talaq Bill or the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 that was passed in the Lok Sabha has divided the political class and Muslim organisations, even if the legal fight against it was spearheaded by many aggrieved Muslim women and their organisations like the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).
The proposed bill aims to outlaw the practice of Talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq and criminalises the practice, making it a non-bailable and cognizable offence and inviting a jail term of three years for erring husbands. This provision has been objected by many parties and they are demanding its removal.
The government says, doing so was necessary as even after the landmark Supreme Court verdict on August 22, 2017 that banned instant triple talaq, the social malaise continued unabated. The top court in its verdict had put a six month ban on the practice and had asked the government to frame a law on it.
If we see available data, the government stand looks logical, the data which says the Supreme Court ruling has failed to deter the erring Muslim husbands from divorcing their wives by saying ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’ in one go.
Before the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in August, 177 triple talaq cases were registered, i.e., 22 cases a month.
The situation has become worse since then. As Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad revealed in the Parliament today, around 100 triple talaq cases have been registered since the Supreme Court verdict, i.e., 25 cases a month.
POOR LITERACY LEVELS, NEGLIGIBLE WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION
Data show Muslim women are worst of all social groupings of women in India.
According to the Census 2011, Muslim women at 52 per cent are least educated among the women in India. Among those who are educated, only very few reach the graduation level as the overall share of the Muslim community among graduate students is just 2.75 per cent.
Something that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.
A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were educated till the upper primary level (around 42 per cent).
UNDERAGE MARRIAGES AND INSTANT DIVORCE: TRIPLE TALAQ IS A SOCIAL MALAISE
Census 2011 also reveals that 13.5 per cent of Muslim women are married before 15 years of age and 49 per cent between 14 to 19 years.
Overall, around 80 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 21 and most of them are either illiterate or barely literate to build independent careers.
Also, Census data shows we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent Muslim girls are forced in underage marriages. It seems as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a housewife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at his mere whim.
Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports.
Most of them were divorced orally, an instant ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’ was spoken to almost 66 per cent of them.
7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows.
Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.
95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the BMMA reveals. The BMMA survey also says 92 per cent Muslim women want triple talaq banned.
The Supreme Court, while delivering its landmark decision in the Shah Bano case in 1985, that recognised a Muslim woman’s right to alimony, had commented, “Whether the spouses are Hindus or Muslims, Christians or Parsis, pagans or heathens, is wholly irrelevant in the application of the provisions on maintenance given to wife who is unable to maintain herself.”
Though the Supreme Court decision was overturned by the Rajiv Gandhi government within a year by enacting he Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, the case became a rallying point for women voices from within the Muslim community for their rights.