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What It Means When An All-Male Jury Pronounces The Triple Talaq Verdict

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With Supreme Court (SC) delivering a historic judgement on the practice of instant triple talaq, i.e. divorce by uttering the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting, diverse reactions are pouring in from different sections. Most people have hailed the judgement as a blow to patriarchy and have gone on to claim it as a feminist decision. A number of media houses have pointed out to the fact that all five judges on the bench belonged to different religions. This is being used as an example to prove the secular and progressive nature of the Indian judiciary.

While going through all these reactions, a couplet from the famous Urdu poet and Bollywood lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi kept echoing in my head;

Mardo ne banayi jo rasme
Usko haq ka farmaan kaha

(The traditions and laws set by men
were termed as a righteous and heavenly verdict)

Sahir has rightly called out to the patriarchal nature of all religions. All the religious and social laws, which are being legitimised in the name of God, are given to the society by men. Be it Manu or other sages of the Hindus, Muhammad and the later successors of Muslims, Buddha and the disciples of Buddhists and Christ and the later saints of Christians, all law formulators and religious leaders were men.

It was hoped that with modern ideas of secularism, democracy and equality, women would get out of these shackles of male enslavement. However, has that actually happened?

This instant triple talaq verdict shows the opposite. Men formulate the laws and women have no say of their own with these patriarchal structures still governing them. Five male judges of the honourable Supreme Court have decided over an important woman centric issue. This can be compared to the situation when men in Saudi Arabia gathered without a single woman present to discuss women’s issues and the entire world laughed at them.

The situation becomes even more depressing when you realise that nobody is pointing out this anomaly. Women’s rights groups and members of the civil society are busy hailing the decision and failing to ask the tougher question; where are our female judges?

It must be understood that representation is the first step towards equal treatment. The judiciary has to deal with several women centric cases such as rape, sexual harassment, dowry deaths, domestic violence, etc. To have a fair judgement, we need a gender inclusive judiciary. However, the truth is that we have a male biased judicial system in our country.

As a matter of fact, at present only one of 28 SC judges is a woman. Since independence, 229 judges have been appointed to the SC of which only six were women. It took 42 years after independence for a woman to become an SC judge when Justice M Fathima Bivi was appointed in 1989.

This is not the first time that an all male bench decided upon a major woman’s issues. A 5-member male bench had decided the famous Shah Bano case while three male judges ruled for the Hindu female’s right to maintenance in 1977. These judgements might give an impression of being pro-women, but the very fact that women do not have a voice in these judgements is a serious flaw that is not very different from religious jurisprudence.

Recently some scholars in the West, have identified that the judiciary and its authority is gendered. According to Baroness Hale, the ideal of a judge being anonymous, dehumanised, impartial, and authoritative is ‘intrinsically male’.  She writes, “We have to challenge the notion that the only person who can be taken seriously as a neutral and fair-minded person is the judicial equivalent of a tall man in a suit.” In our society, the judiciary is synonymous with authority and that in turn is associated with masculinity.

The image of a judge in arts, poetry, literature and films is also usually of a man. Recently the “Jolly LLB” series was admired across circles. The early 90s courtroom drama “Damini” made Sunny Deol a household name. “Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho” is a milestone in offbeat cinema.  A man sitting in a judge’s chair connects them all. As a society, we cannot imagine a woman taking decisions.

A misogynistic society that wants to act as a guardian of women in the real issue. Religions, across the board, in bits and pieces, provided women something that can be called progressive. However, they never allowed them a voice.

Women remained subjugated with no decision-making agency. Religious leaders drew legitimacy through religious texts, while the modern state does it through the constitution and legislations, but both of them are agencies of men. Women are infantilised under the guardianship of men.

It is high time that we take notice of this flaw in our society. After almost 70 years, women still need to break the shackles of patriarchal guardianship. Let women take decisions alongside men.

Eight decades ago, an Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi urged the women by saying :

Shatter these resolve breaking suspicions of sermons
these vows that have become shackles
this too, this necklace of emeralds
these standards set by the wise men
You have to turn into a tempest, bubble and boil over

Let’s follow her words.


The author is a researcher of History and a freelance socio-political commentator, with a special interest in Muslim issues

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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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