Ahead of the budget session, a section of Muslim women have demanded that the government retain the criminalisation provision in the triple talaq Bill while making it a bailable, compoundable offence which becomes cognisable only at the instance of the wife.
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has sent letters communicating their demands, along with their draft of the law, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, ministries of Law, Minority Affairs, Women and Child Development and Law Commission. Led by Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Safia Niaz, the BMMA was one of the interveners in the Shayara Bano case in the Supreme Court.
It said that following the tabling of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 in Parliament, a consultation held with more than 60,000 Muslim women in different states showed that they want the imprisonment clauses in cases of talaq-e-bidat.
The BMMA states that despite the SC setting aside the aside triple talaq in its judgement of 22nd August, it is still very much in practice. Zakia said that almost all women they spoke to were of the opinion that by not sending the husband to jail, it shows that the concern is more about protecting the husband than the woman who has to bear the consequence of talaq-e-bidat. “We have therefore suggested a one year imprisonment term for the husband (instead of the three years proposed in the Bill) and/or a fine if even after exhausting all options, the husband is adamant about giving his wife triple talaq,” she said, adding that they want the Bill to go through proper scrutiny before a Select Committee of Parliament. “We have waited 70 years, we can wait some more time so as to have a watertight bill,” she said.
The primary objection of most opposition parties when the Bill was tabled during the winter session was to the criminalisation provision. Over a dozen women’s organisations, including the Hasina Khan led Bebaak Collective, one of the interveners in support of Supreme Court triple talaq petition, Jagori, AIDWA and over hundred academicians and activists such as Nivedita Menon, Teesta Setalvad, Mary E John, and, Nandini Sundar have signed petitions against making the violation of the civil contract of marriage into a criminal act.
While the proposed legislation does make the offence a cognisable one, BMMA has suggested that it should be made so only at the instance of the wife to prevent any misuse. Noorjehan added that since legal recourse is not affordable for everyone, their version of the Bill recognises alternate arbitration mechanism within the community structures provided so that any person such as the qazi or organisation that abets offender, in violation of the law, should be liable to a three-year imprisonment. “In addition to talaq-e-ahsan, the only valid form of talaq, the legislation should recognise khula (demand for divorce by wife) and mubarah (divorce by mutual consent). The legislation should outlaw nikah halala and mut’ah — a form of marriage with automatic divorce which happens in places such as Hyderabad where Shaikh hire girls for a short-term,” she said.
The letter sent to the PM and others reads, “Orthodox and patriarchal males have dominated the debate on rights of Muslim women and have stone-walled any attempt towards reform in Muslim personal law. In the process the Muslim women have been denied their Quranic rights as well as their rights as equal Indian citizens.”