Triple Talaq Bill: A Well Thought Out Law Or Plain Desperation?

When the apex court pronounced talaq-e-biddat (triple talaq) as unconstitutional last year in August, it provided a sense of relief and security to all Muslim women of this country.

Almost everyone lauded the judgment. It was indeed a landmark judgment, and the apex court directed the government to formulate a law to debar this arbitrary and archaic form of practice to dissolve a marriage, which gave high-handed impunity to the husband, and provides no remedy to the aggrieved wife.

Following the apex court directions, the government tabled “The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017” or what is more commonly known as the “Triple Talaq Bill”. Unfortunately, its provisions stand contrary to its name.

There are some fundamental problems with this Act, as the whole act in itself, is a contradiction. Section 3 makes the pronouncement of talaq through any form, electronic, verbal or written, void and illegal. Section 4 makes it a criminal offence with the imprisonment, which may be extended to three years. It also makes it more stringent by making it a non-bailable and cognizable offence. This whole act seems ambiguous and illogical. There are questions which remain unanswered.

1. Fundamentally, Muslim marriage is a civil contract. So how can there be a penal liability of its dissolution?

2. The word ‘void’, according to the Oxford dictionary, means something that is not valid or legally binding. So how does a word or act which is not legally binding, create a case of any liability, either civil or penal?

3. Section 7 makes this act cognizable and non-bailable. This makes it impossible for any reconciliation between a husband and a wife.

4. The offence doesn’t specifically provide any description of the complainant, which means anyone can be a complainant like in any other criminal offence under CrPC. This, in my opinion, is very absurd and makes Muslim men more vulnerable in the eyes of the law.

5. Section 5 talks about subsistence allowance for wife and children as determined by the magistrate. Now, what is subsistence allowance? The Oxford dictionary defines subsistence allowance as “an allowance or advance on someone’s pay.” Under Indian law, subsistence allowance is a term used mostly in service jurisprudence, especially in laws relating to workmen. The usage of the term underlines the misogyny in the thought process of the law-makers who consider the wife to be an employee of the husband.

6. But the above provision of subsistence allowance is itself contradictory as a husband is in jail. Under those circumstances, how can he be able to provide any support for his family?

The above act, which was passed in the lower house of the parliament without any serious discussions and scrutiny can cause some severe consequence. Now, as it is tabled in the upper house, they have a responsibility to pass this act only after strict scrutiny, and it should be sent to a committee if needed.

In my opinion, this act shows the desperation of the BJP to prove themselves as the messiah of the minority. But the question is, whether stringent laws prevent a criminal act, or do they have reformatory capabilities?

It is neither, a fact proven in many other criminally liable acts of rape, crime against women, administrative and bureaucratic corruption etc. Another question which arises is whether this whole issue requires a criminal and stringent law when there is 498A IPC and The Dowry Prohibition Act is already in place? Are the already existing acts, not appropriate to meet any injustice?

Empirical data show that, the percentage of women aggrieved by triple talaq was 0.2%. Thus, in my opinion, this overly enthusiastic positive sentiment for Muslim women seems very flawed and nothing but a political stunt. The fact is, that the question of gender justice has never been a priority for this government, as matrimonial offences like marital rape still need recognition as a criminal offence.

Death threats to Deepika Padukone in the “Padmavati” controversy and many other cases of moral policing perpetrated by factions of the Sangh Parivar and others like them, often question women’s freedom and their independence.

The way I see it, all these BJP leaders are a product of the RSS who think women are not worthy enough to stand equally with men. Time and again, it has been proven that the laws always had been highly influenced by the ideology of the ruling party. Problems like triple talaq, marital rape, wife beating, etc. are a problem of the mentality of people, which obviously require a criminal action. But, we also need to understand it as a societal problem.

In this man’s world, women are very often subject to mental and physical violence. The very foundation of our society is against women, and so their upbringing and that very foundation need to questioned and demolished to achieve a just society.

The laws like above, will only form discontent in the family and makes Muslim men more vulnerable to criminal liability. This law is an absurd form of legislation and shows the failure of the government to understand the whole issue.

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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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