Since it has become important to prefix all arguments that don’t blindly welcome the Supreme Court judgement on Triple Talaq with the obvious condemnation of the practice, here goes: Triple Talaq as a practice is oppressive, regressive and has no place in a democracy. It disallows women to express their most fundamental rights and instils fear through complete disempowerment of women by rendering them economically rudderless and therefore helpless in the face of oppression.
This said, the judgement should not be considered historic in condemning or banning the practice. What was truly looked forward to was the first principles on which the judgement was to be argued. While placing the verdict within the individual vs community rights debate, the judgement and dissenting judgement have both referred to Articles 14 and 21 and high court precedents. The judgement has brought various other questions that need to be sorted out irrespective of which side of this one is on and needs deep introspection.
Firstly, the judgement is far from the end for this fight given that it only strikes down Talaq-e-Bidat (instantaneous talaq). Along with this, government policies are yet to provide any alternative legislations for Muslim women to be empowered through. If there had been intention and farsight, the lens and approach would have been founded in more rigorous and systemic solutions that the socioeconomic complexities in issues such as these require.
There should have been a foundation to this cause, programmes, boards, and most importantly an inclusion of the stakeholders because any effective change comes with a tedious and lengthy building of steps towards empowerment.
What the judgement argues is within the purview of the rights of a community and those of an individual. The debate over the rights of the community cannot and should not be dismissed. The court has in this regard absolved itself of setting any considerable precedent in upholding the rights to equality of the individual even in the face of archaic practices of a community.
Robust social reform is guaranteed by a strong exchange between judicial activism, legislation and community inclusion to garner consent from within the communities. True political will can only be reflected in a policy that is inclusive, respectful of heterogeneity and radical, not in imposition but in execution.
Triple Talaq and its existence must be considered condemnable by important sections of the population that practice it for this to be considered a reform and not infliction. Policy framers should be asking questions about programmes created for exposure, education, awareness and the overall socio-economic upliftment of the marginalised minority while discussing gender along the intersection of religious and community-related practices.
Here it is also important to revisit the Constituent Assembly debates while deciding on personal laws and civil code. According to Article 26 of the Indian Constitution, there exists a need to allow communities to self-determine while the state has the right to protect the individual’s interest.
Finally, the narrative around Hindu saviours of oppressed Muslim women must be fought with the utmost rigour. This narrative is not about the women, this is not about their oppression, this is about demonising a community to strike down their right to assert their identity and their customs and bring them under the preview of a homogeneous civil code informed by a hegemonic Hindu Code.
Such rhetoric is never about the victims of oppression. There are certain aspects of body politics to this. Women are considered property, so this is the apparent win of the Hindu man over the property of the Muslim men in deciding their fate and future. And that is as far away from empowerment as one can get, in a cross section of both gender and community politics.
Let us not forget that the history of cases around Triple Talaq precedes the present government, and so do the judgements that lead up to this Supreme Court verdict. It is to be welcomed by the women who fought it and theirs are the stories that deserve celebration.
There is a compelling case to be made for the need to find former victims of this practice and a more sustainable approach to reform public policy and legislation. In projecting this decision as a victory of a government which has evidently marginalised minority communities, we are sending out the wrong message to this democracy, and laying grounds for what can be catastrophic results.