After going through the provisions of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018, the first question which strikes my mind is—will it serve the purpose for which it is introduced?
From the preamble of this bill, I concluded that the purpose of this bill is to protect the rights of married Muslim women and to abolish the practice of instant talaq, i.e. Talaq-e-biddat.
To give effect to the judgment of Honourable Supreme Court in ‘Shayara Bano vs. Union of India‘, declaring the practice of talaq-e-biddat unconstitutional, discriminatory and against the dignity of women, and to redress the grievances of victims of this practice, this bill was tabled in the parliament and now it has been passed by both the houses.
Now, to what extent will this protect the rights of married Muslim women? The answer lies in the future only. But clearly, one can point out a lot of uncertainty around this bill, and it looks like it has been passed hastily.
There are many reasons why I say so. These are:
1. On the one hand, by pronouncing talaq in any form as void, the bill has tried to protect the institution of marriage, and thus, the right of women, but on the other hand, by making the act of pronouncement of talaq an offence, lawmakers have somehow tried to damage the same institution of marriage. No one can imagine a situation in which a husband is convicted for the offence of pronouncing talaq, and after his release, reconciling with his spouse.
2. The second issue which strikes my mind is—what will happen in those cases where the husband is the sole earner of the family, and he doesn’t have any other means other than his monthly income? If in this case, he is convicted of the offence mentioned above, then again, the woman will be forced into the same situation which would arise in the case when she was the victim of triple talaq, i.e. the state of destitution and vagrancy.
3. One point which has been left untouched by the lawmakers is the situation where the husband gets separated from his wife without pronouncing talaq. Neither it has been made punishable under this bill, nor it is punishable under any other act. There is still discrimination under our laws as an act of pronouncing talaq has been made criminal, but deserting one’s wife is not. Both these acts result in the same situation, i.e. the state of destitution and vagrancy. Moreover, under this bill, lawmakers have only provided a window for getting away from the clutches of law by not dealing with the situation under which a husband deserts his wife.
I would conclude by saying, there is no doubt that the practice of talaq-e-biddat was discriminatory and against the constitutional principles, and it violates the dignity of woman. Therefore, it should be abolished, but at the same time, introducing a rational law is necessary.