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Why Ending Triple Talaq Is Not As Simple As People Would Like To Think

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By Tanzeel Ahmed:

In Islam, ‘talaq’, means “I divorce you.”  Many people view that a Muslim man (who is married) can dissolve his marriage at any time by telling his wife: “talaq, talaq, talaq” on his own. It is not as easy and simple as that in Islam because there are several processes that must be done as a form of responsibility from both parties according to the rules of Islamic law. Divorce in Islam is legitimate even though the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Of all the lawful acts the most detestable to Allah is divorce.” (Sunan of Abu-Dawood -2173)  ‘Talaq’ in Islam is not legally valid if the husband says it when drunk or unconscious.

‘Talaq-e-Bid’ah’, which is in practice today, is permissible only in rare circumstances. An exceptional case took place during the time of Islamic leader Umar. It has been said that a person was brought before Umar for having uttered triple talaq on one occasion. Today, if anyone cited Umar in order to justify the finality of a divorce, they have to keep in the mind that this verdict will remain unenforceable for the simple reason that he does not have the power as the caliph acquired. The law of Sharia is always eternal, but a Muslim ruler has the power to make an exception to maintain the dignity of the individual in special circumstances. It will purely be temporary in nature.

If the husband and wife have differences between them, it is advised to ask for an arbitration meeting to seek reconciliation (Al-Qur’an 4:35). If reconciliation fails, he may divorce either orally or by writing, but it is necessary to present two witnesses on the occasion on pronouncing of talaq. The correct and better procedure of giving divorce prescribed by the Qur’an is taking three months to finalise it. It’s impossible for a man seeking a divorce suddenly to cast his wife aside. The Qur’an has dealt with the issue of talaq at length in chapters 2, 4 and 65, namely, Al-Baqara, Al-Nisa and Al-Talaq. If the man divorces his wife, he can withdraw his word during the month, if not he can say, “I divorce you” and they must again review the situation for the upcoming month. Even in the third month he has right to revoke the proceedings if he wants to change his decision otherwise he can repeat the statement and it becomes final divorce which is called as ‘talaq-e-ahsan’. The main motive of a wide gap is to give the husband the opportunity to revise his decision.

The only point of conflict is whether it is to be in one sitting or three waiting periods. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board should focus on the women on the receiving end in the Muslim community. The Qur’an does not acknowledge such injustice. The Board should suggest laws on the basis of all the sects in the Muslim community because if the law is made on the basis of a particular sect, it would not represent the all the sects in the Muslim community. The law should pass in order to ensure equity for women.

Triple talaq has frequently become the cause of an attack on Islamic laws and it may become the basis of a uniform civil code. But it is unfeasible to make such codes in a multicultural country where diversity survives. India is one of the few countries in the world where multiple customs and traditions are in practices. To make changes to triple talaq, there is a need for comprehensive legislation to be drafted under the guidance of the Muslim Personal Law by the ‘ulama’ (a body of Muslim scholars), Muslim intellectuals and lawyers. Otherwise, triple talaq will become the basis of the proposed uniform civil code. Triple talaq in one sitting is not the only issue of gender discrimination as many are claiming. To abolish Muslim Personal Law as a whole is arduous. But many fail to understand the plight of Muslim women even when the process takes three months. Thousands of Muslim women have suffered because of this practice so there is a need to modify this law. The board should review the practice of triple talaq.

Islam is a religion that gives women equal rights to men. When a woman wishes to divorce (‘khul’a’) her husband, she has to put her case before a body of religious scholars. They would consider it in light of the Qur’an and ‘hadith’. If they find a reasonable basis, then they would decide to part amicably. Divorce is mercy; it is not a punishment in Islam. There is a need to ensure a better understanding between both. The Prophet (PBUH) said, the best of you is one who is the best for your family.”(Al-Tirmidhi, 3252).

My appeal to the Muslim Personal Law Board, and even Muslim intellectuals, is to initiate the drafting of comprehensive laws which should be done considering the Qur’an and Hadith.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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