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Triple Talaq: Light Words, Heavy Impact

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Talaq. Talaq. Talaq.

There are cases where women don’t even know that they’ve been divorced“, Niaz said. “The children are without any support. So, it has become very convenient for a Muslim man to just say talaq thrice and it is just so easy for him to get the woman out of his life”, says Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA). The lady describes the deplorable state of millions of Muslim women who are deprived of the basic human rights of living with dignity.

On October 7, 2016, the Law Commission of India issued a questionnaire to solicit the ideas and the opinions of the public about the ways in which family laws could be reformed. There was a huge uproar about the question number seven of the questionnaire, which explicitly asked if triple talaq could be ‘abolished, reformed or be retained’. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and many politicians including Asaduddin Owaisi vociferously opposed this act and called it as an attack on the freedom of Muslims and plurality of the nation.

Many civil societies and BMMA have called out for the codification of the Sharia law, i.e. interpretation of Muslim laws based upon the constitution and encompassing women rights. They say that codification would be a giant step in the direction of gender equality and a great relief for Muslim women. However, smartly ignoring this demand both the government and the AIMPLB have rather exploited the issue of Uniform Civil code (UCC) to tip the scales in their direction. As far as our Constitution is concerned, it has been quite vague and paradoxical in the context of UCC. Article 25 of Indian constitution states “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.” On the other hand, we have Article 14 talks about the equality before the law – “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth” – and Article 44 which states that “The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

The problem is that if triple talaq is actually a part of Islam, then how far is it right for the courts or the government to intervene – as that would be considered as a violation of Article 25 – but at the same time Article 14 and 44 allow the state to treat all citizens equally, and also promises to promulgate the UCC.  The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act in India was passed in 1937 largely by the interpretation of officers working under the British – but the question arises that how far is it right to treat something imposed by British on us as a gospel truth?

The worst sufferers of this bizarre practice are the women and the children. The cases of Shayara Bano and Shah Bano were momentous in galvanizing support on this issue. These incidents actually opened the doors for discussions on modification, if not abolishing, triple talaq. A survey was conducted by BMMA found that almost 92% of Muslim women opposed triple talaq. Recently, a women’s movement collected more than 50,000 signatures, calling for a nationwide ban on instant divorces. That petition was being added as evidence in an appeal filed to the Supreme Court to ban instant divorces.

The important thing here is that human rights should not supersede the religious laws. If this practice is actually outlandish and outdated, then why is the AIMPLB being so dogmatic to even discuss this issue, not to forget that they even boycotted the questionnaire of the Law Commission? For the government, it is important to be prudent in handling this issue, because imposition doesn’t lead to resolutions but conflicts. And for the Muslims, it is the time for their uprising to revamp the ancient and bizarre patriarchal social structure. It is the time for them to ask why we should allow certain people sitting together at a place to be a representative of millions of Muslims. Who gives them this authority?

A different approach is required to handle this issue. This issue needs to be viewed through the lenses of human rights and should not be treated as a theological debate, because the moment we make it a theological debate, the issue gets hijacked by the ‘maulvis vs. moderates’ argument. Shouldn’t divorce be a matter where both sides  have equal say – and not that only one of the parties has to bear the brunt of separation and social stigma? If laws against crime, laws relating to land relations, laws of contract and laws governing evidence can be applied equally to every citizen irrespective of their religion – then why not marriage and divorce laws? For a land that celebrates democracy and freedom, it is absurd that people are treated differently in the eyes of law just because they follow a different religion. It is high time for the Muslims to say ‘triple talaq‘ to this unilateral practice.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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