Counsellors operating the women’s helpline under the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) have revealed that 70% of callers are actually men. This is surprising because the helpline was set up with the sole purpose of assisting Muslim women with regards to Sharia Law.
Yasmeen Farooqi, convenor of the AIMPLB wing in Rajasthan, says that men have called in to discuss family matters, and the procedure for second marriage, while counsellor Uzma Alam says she has received calls from men who are being harassed by their wives.
The situation perhaps reveals something about the attitudes, behaviours, and concerns of Muslim men, and counsellors have said they do supply male callers with relevant information over email. But, with so few women actually using the helpline, its main objective remains unfulfilled.
According to Syed Tanveer Nasreen, head of Women’s Studies at Burdwan University, this disparity “shows that a large section of Muslim women can’t even dare to make a telephone call and speak for themselves.” Nasreen suggested that some men were calling on behalf of their female relatives, but that hardly takes away from the fact that men are the overwhelming majority of users in a service meant for women.
This casts serious doubts on the AIMPLB’s ability to address the needs of Muslim women, which include employment, education, property rights, and issues related to observing certain customs, like wearing the hijab, or ‘triple talaq’.
Given its staunch support for customs like triple talaq, that Muslim women have been fighting against, the AIMPLB’s efforts with the helpline seem almost redundant. In its current form, it has simply become another way for the patriarchy to out itself.