Like a lot of Muslim women out there, I was really happy when I read about the ban on Triple Talaq. I had heard of many relatives who had faced problems because of this, as the husband would utter the three “talaqs” based on his whims and fancies and the woman was often left in a lurch. According to Islam, between the utterance of the three “talaqs”, there has to be a waiting period of 6 months each so that the couple could work on their issues. The point of this waiting period was to ensure that the decision was not taken in the heat of the moment. I have also seen men misuse this provision by giving two talaqs and not the third one, such that the marriage is affected and cannot continue as normal, but at the same time, she is not free to live an independent life or marry someone else. Since many Muslim women do not know that they too can start divorce proceedings (known as tula or khula), they stay stuck in this situation, often victimized and with fleeting economic support.
Looking at this we can witness that there is problem with the education on religious laws when it comes to Islam. This has now come to light as we know and is being talked about a lot since it as a social issue and an unjust act exercised against women when already the religion has been on the altar for many of its confounding beliefs. A lot of questions have emerged as to the sudden interest of the BJP led government into the Islamic religious rules and although it masks on the front, the intentions of helping the Muslim women, yet the consequences of the entire proposal of the ban is hardly discussed in the media.
In the light of all this, I was really happy about the law. However, the law is not as innocent as it might seem. In an article in the Asian Age, Flavia Agnes, a woman’s rights lawyer and founder of the organization Majlis which helps Muslim women to get their basic rights, pointed out the following problems in the law:
- Triple Talaq was already criminalized before the act: It got invalidated back in 2002 by the Supreme Court (SC) in the Shamim Ara case and even before that in 2001, through another significant ruling. So a woman with a single talaq is not considered divorced, neither if all three talaqs have been uttered at the same time. Such women can take the recourse of laws like Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act of 2005.
- It’s a knee-jerk reaction and will likely suffer the similar fate as 498 A: The dowry act (498 A) got a lot of flak because police could arrest men and their relatives on simply an oral statement. Due to this, the court intervened and asked for the use of this law to be limited/modified. Fighting for women’s rights has become harder due to this law than easier because many men without having taken dowry have been framed under this law. Flavia Agnes suspects that the way this law has been framed, it will suffer a similar fate as the dowry law.
- Muslim men can be easily incarcerated: In the light of such sentiments, where there’s already a lot of hate propagated against Muslim men, a law like this will make it easy to arrest Muslim men without much cause. Since the law allows third parties to also lodge a complaint, this gets really murky and beyond the life of the couple in question.
- It’s too complicated for an average Muslim woman, and doesn’t cover her economic rights: The law requires a lot of understanding of the legal procedures which is hardly the sort of acumen an average Muslim woman has. She is more likely to approach community based panchayats or religious committees and so we need to help her understand the existing laws than make new, complicated ones. Also, the law does not guarantee her any economic rights while the husband is in jail, neither does it shed much light on alimony.
Apart from this, the number of Hindu women who have been dumped by their husbands without support is actually much larger than Muslim women. Yet we do not see a law to help them out, which strengthens the fact that this law might have communal flavor. Therefore, all in all, it seems like a communally motivated law. The good news is that the law has not been passed yet and it can still be insulated against all these problematic points, with certain amendments.
To conclude, it is very important for the court and the media to take upon the other aspects of a law that are being proposed. Especially, the media must not only throw light on just one side of the coin but also question what the other side offers. As a representative of the people, it is important to talk about the consequences of the actions demanded. Also, once a law has been proposed, it is a fundamental need to look into the execution framework of that law. When we witness all the debates conducted on news channels we only hear how Triple Talaq needs to be banned and not on how will the women be affected by it, considering the economic standard of the family conditions she is in. Therefore it is necessary being a medium between the government and the governed, and bringing into consideration all the vital attributes of an issue without letting any religious, cultural or political bias in the way.