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Why I Think The Triple Talaq Bill Isn’t Actually About Muslim Women’s Rights

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The issue of Triple Talaq traces back to 2016, when the Supreme Court had sought assistance from the then Attorney-General of India, Mukul Rohatgi, on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of triple talaq, nikah halala, and polygamy, to assess whether Muslim women face gender discrimination in cases of divorce.

Opposing the practice of triple talaq, the Centre told the top court that there is a need to re-look at these practices on the grounds that they are in conflict with gender equality and secularism. The Supreme Court set up a five-judge constitutional bench to hear and deliberate on the challenges against these three practices.

The issue gained political momentum on March 2017 when the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) told the Supreme Court that the issue of triple talaq falls outside the judiciary’s realm, and that these issues should not be touched by the court. However, on August 22, 2018, the Supreme Court set aside the decade-old practice of instant triple talaq saying it violated Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The apex court asked the parliament to draft a law on the issue. Consequently, a bill was introduced by the NDA government in the Lok Sabha as The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2018.

The Bill had a number of things which were not quite right in the context of law of the land.

As per Jeremy Bentham, “offences must be classified solely on the basis of the harm perpetrated, and there must be an appropriate proportion between crimes and punishments.” And utilitarian calculation underlies not only human actions in general but legal punishment in particular. Marriage in Islam is a contract. Based upon this it will be a civil wrong and that too when there is a breach like non-payment of mahr (dowry) amount etc. But the mere act of triple talaq does not constitute breach per se. J. S. Mill’s Harm Principle says “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” The act of triple talaq does not harm the wife, as the Supreme court in its judgment has already said that triple talaq does not invalidate the marriage and does not result in divorce. The acts which were done in furtherance of triple talaq should be made punishable instead of the mere act itself.

In the era where homosexuality and adultery are decriminalised, acts like desertion are not. Offences like bigamy are non-cognisable, while Section 7 of this Bill says “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, —(a) an offence punishable under this Act shall be cognisable”. Criminalising triple talaq would be against this ongoing jurisprudence.

The extent and applicability section says that “It shall be deemed to have come into force on the 19th September”. A man can be punished for the act which he didn’t know was a crime at the time he committed it. Criminalising some act with retrospective effect is a gross injustice as against Article 20(1) of the Constitution and also against the Criminal Justice System.

Further, Section 3 of the Bill says “Any pronouncement of talaq by a Muslim husband upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, shall be void and illegal.” It is very difficult to determine the act when it is done in spoken form and it may lead to gross misuse of the law.

The bill is in violation of Article 26 of the Constitution which says freedom “to manage its own affairs in matters of religion”. It is against Article 14 as divorce in every religion should be made punishable. Also taking into consideration what the preamble of the Constitution of India, which says “LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship”, the Bill is, once again, against the Constitution.

The Bill seems useless, as the acts under this law could easily be incorporated under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, wherein it could have been categorised as verbal and emotional abuse.

The name is The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2018, but when the purpose is to protect Muslim women, how can this be made possible by sending the husband to jail after which he can’t even pay the maintenance and provide other benefits to his ex-wife?

Now the contentious Bill is set to be tabled in Rajya Sabha. The bill was passed by the Lower House with 245 voting in favour and 11 opposing it. However, the opposition walked out of the session. Now Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will table the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The opposition is all set to oppose the Bill as the BJP-led NDA lacks numbers in Rajya Sabha.

Featured Image: Chris Beckett/Flickr.

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  1. zahid iqbal

    Surah At-Talaq is Medinan Surah and also called Madani Surah of Quran e Pak. You can read Surah At-Talaq with English Translation and download mp3 Surah At-Talaq in your mobile and WhatsApp with voice of Surah At-Talaq Recited by Abdul Basit Abdul Samad. Surah At-Talaq is available in English with voice of Naeem Sultan using the Pickthall Translation. Read and Download At-Talaq Ayat by Ayat in English Translation and Tafseer. We had reminded them about the pending payments on December 1 to the authorities. However, as they were busy with the elections, we did not bother them. After elections, when we wanted to go on a strike, President Ram Nath Kovind had come down for his sojourn. So the authorities pleaded with us and assured of settling the dues shortly. However, the promise still remains unfulfilled,” SCB Contract Workers’ Union president, M Narasimha told TNM.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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