In a low-key affair on Wednesday,citys first womens Sharia Court was inaugurated. A modest set up,the one-room court aims to end the discriminatory treatment meted out to women by all-men Sharia Courts run by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).
Even getting this place was a difficult task. Landlords were reluctant to rent us the office spaces because they thought what we were doing could invite trouble from others in the community. Though our intention is not to antagonise any other body,some religious bodies have clearly been irked by this move, said Saeeda Jamadar,president of courts Pune bench. The court is set up by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).
The court,an instrument of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism in countrys judicial system,will serve as a counselling centre and try to settle disputes,mainly marital issues through mediation. Jamdar,a city-based teacher,and Noorjehan Tamboli,a Daund-based activist,will comprise the Pune bench.
Zubeda Khatoon,Maharashtra convenor for BMMA,said,We have received about seven cases so far. Our experience in other three cities tell us that once the bench starts functioning many more women will approach us. Our aim is not to challenge the other established Sharia courts run by men. We will also take their help if needed but our experience tells us that at these courts women are discriminated against. Our aim is to give justice to women and take a sympathetic view of the problems faced by them,which is not happening in the courts run by men.
Jamadar said that apart from conducting hearings,several other initiatives will be undertaken to create awareness among Muslim women about their rights. Their is a dire need for creating awareness among women about their property rights. Presently,women only get one-fourth of the property share as compared to men. This doesnt have any backing of Sharia. Both men and women have to get equal share. This is among the major issues about which awareness has to be created, said Khatoon.
According to the activists,there have been several examples where the muftis of the Sharia courts did no even summon the concerned woman before disposing off the matter. I remember a case where a man has divorced his wife for attending his nephews funeral. The woman has two children and dont know what to do. It is cases such as these that have forced us to set up such a court, said Jamadar,who however adds that the women bench doesnt mean that it will be biased towards men.