Criminalizing Muslim men under Triple Talaq ordinance is not justice for women

Written by Preksha Malu | Published on: September 19, 2018

Hasina Khan, Founder of Bebaak Collective, an umbrella of Muslim women's groups and Flavia Agnes, women's’ rights lawyer, spoke to Sabrang India about the challenges of the new ordinance.


Triple Talaq
 
New Delhi: On Wednesday, The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, made Triple Talaq a criminal offence inviting upto three years of imprisonment and fines by passing the ordinance. The announcement was made by Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for law and justice, IT.
 
“Under the Ordinance, the crime will be taken into cognizance only when the woman herself or a blood relative files a complaint. Second, the case may be dropped if the duo reaches a compromise, but only if the wife approaches the magistrate. Third, the magistrate can grant the accused bail, on reasonable grounds, but only after hearing the wife. The wife will be given custody of the child and is entitled to maintenance — decided by the magistrate — for herself and her children,” reported Indian Express (IE).
 
We did not want this
Hasina Khan, Founder of Bebaak Collective, an umbrella of Muslim women's groups, spoke to Sabrang India about the challenges of the new ordinance. “We never supported the criminalization of the men under Triple Talaq. This ordinance only victimizes Muslim women more and the SC Judgement has been overruled by this. This is just fear mongering and causing strife in the community. If the husband is jailed, how does it help the woman who complains? Her social structure crumbles, she has to face ostracization, isolation, no financial support or social security. Justice for Muslim Women when it comes to Triple Talaq is not wanting punishment. It wanting rights. BY jailing the husband, you put all the onus for taking care of social obligations, finances, family and children on the woman. We did not ask for this victimization,” she said.
 
She added that the BJP govt is shooting from a gun placed on Muslim women’s shoulders. “It is to further incarcerate Muslim men. This ordinance creates more problems than it solves. It has increased the number of challenges we face. The govt has not spoken to or listened to Muslim women groups or collectives. We never meant to create this fear. We were getting justice under the Domestic Violence act for Triple Talaq. We have resolved cases by taking help of the DV Act. The purpose of the man when he says triple Talaq is to remove the woman from the house. We could focus on how to support women better but this ordinance is the opposite of progress. Triple Talaq won’t go away in one day. It is a regressive religious tool but the change won't come in a day. Even though Child marriages and dowry have been outlawed, they continue to be practised and so will Triple Talaq,” she said.
 
 “We wanted a more robust support structure for women where they get redressal. We wanted the SC judgment to be read and implementations charted out with help of state machinery. We want security within state infrastructure. We want provisions and awareness in police stations on how to file complaints. The govt didn’t listen to its own report which said that criminalization of men under triple talaq will not help. It is a civil matter, not a criminal one. This creates more problem either way even if it is bailable because it becomes punishment by trial process, looking at the speed at which our courts function. It gets harder for women to go to courts and testify, to seek help and it will further complicate their lives. It’ll force them to divert their attention to get redressal from their community courts instead of taking refuge in the law,” she said.
 
She added, “On the national level BJP has made a wave but at the common man's level it has really complicated things. Women are now afraid that what other weapons will the govt come out with under the guise of support for Muslim women. This is the clear targeting of a community by misusing law.
 
I blame women’s group and seculars for this bad decision
Flavia Agnes, a women's’ rights lawyer focused on gender-based reform in law. She said that the debate around instant divorce might risk normalising far-right rhetoric of India's ruling party by demonising the Muslim community.
 
“The govt has taken a shortcut by passing an ordinance. Such ordinances are passed as executive order only when the safety and security of the nation or extreme emergency is the question. In matters of National security, this provision was made but has clearly been misused. Does Triple Talaq have anything to do with national security and whats the extreme emergency? I see it as an election propaganda before 2019 LS polls,” she said in an interview with Sabrang India.
 
Speaking to Sabrang India, she said, “The SC had already made it invalid in 2002. So how can you make something invalid a crime? By making Triple Talaq invalid, we said that, okay women also have rights. We have been using it to bring justice. But now, it is a crime which can be reported only by the woman herself or a blood relative. There are hardly any convictions. You’ve further narrowed it down. When the husband gets bail, the case will go on for years. When it happens, the woman's security can also be jeopardized. The husband can say I never said it and she has made up stories. In most cases, women retract their complaints because they cannot fight this for so many years. I’m afraid Muslim women won't come forward now to seek justice. Who will say that I want to jail my husband for three years?”
 
“This ordinance is nothing but putting a target on a community, create insecurity among Muslims and it is one more weapon for the police to harass and arrest Muslim men. They are already many languishing in jails for suspected terrorism. Many are killed over the beef transport. This only exacerbates Islamophobia in an already anti-muslim society.” She said.
 
“I’m surprised that there is nothing for Hindu women. Hindu women are also deserted, made destitute and divorced and thrown out of their house but we’re doing nothing about that. A Hindu man who deserts a woman doesn’t go to jail but a Muslim man does? If you throw husbands in jail for three years, what happens to a woman's security and maintenance?” she added.
 
She asked how can there be such a discrepancy in the law. “How can matrimonial relations be a part of criminal investigation and part of the civil law? I blame women's groups and secular people for this ordinance for not planning a campaign with alertness and anticipation of how bad it can become. Many changed their stance on Triple Talaq but in a hurry, we have given the BJP govt impunity to interfere. We have to be careful and clear about the campaigns we launch because they can’t be populist like this which can a huge effect on communities and masses,” she said.
 
“The amendments came after the Supreme Court on August 22 last year struck down the practice of triple talaq, calling it unconstitutional. In a landmark 3-2 verdict, the top court found the practice un-Islamic and “arbitrary”, and disagreed that triple talaq was an integral part of religious practice. The step to approve the ordinance was taken after the government failed to pass the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, in the Rajya Sabha during the recent monsoon session,” IE reported.
 
Triple Talaq is centuries old practice of instant divorce where a man can utter the word “Talaq” three times successively and immediately break his marriage. Several Muslim countries have banned triple talaq, including Turkey, Qatar, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
 
Many in favour of the ordinance argue that the new law was necessary as instant divorces had not stopped even after the SC pronouncing it invalid.
 
“Addressing the media after the Cabinet meeting, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there was a “compelling necessity and an overpowering urgency” to approve the Ordinance. “I have said this before, the issue of triple talaq has nothing to do with faith, mode of worship or religion. It is a pure issue of gender justice, gender dignity and gender equality,” he said in the report by IE.


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