Photo Courtesy: Indian Express
She is the woman who triggered this battle for justice, gender justice for Muslim women, Today she is 36 and Shayara Bano is battling multiple ailments following multiple abortions. Her husband of 15 years sent her a talaqnama (divorce) by post while she was with her parents at their home in Kashipur, Uttarakhand.
* Then there is the case of Ishrat Jahan is 30. Her husband uttered talaq three times over phone and allegedly took away her four children, leaving her at the mercy of her extended family in Howrah.
* Several Muslim groups including the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) signed a letter containing a petition titled ‘Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality’. A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the petition (Justices Dave and Adarsh Goel). These three are petitioners in what is now called the triple talaq case.
Today, August 22, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court will give its ruling on a clutch of petitions which have challenged the practice of triple talaq as “unlawful and unconstitutional”. The verdict by the bench comprising Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and Abdul Nazeer is to be pronounced at 10.30 am. The bench had reserved its verdict on May 18 after hearing it for six days starting May 11 during the summer vacation.
* In 1985, when the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Shah Bano case granted divorced Muslim women the right to alimony, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-governmental organisation that professes to represent Indian Muslims in all matters of their faith, shouted “Islam is under threat”. In response, Muslim women rallied to fight for their rights, especially in matters of marriage and divorce, and several women’s groups emerged from the community over the next three decades. Bebaak Collective, Awaz-e-Niswaan, Sahiyar, Muslim Mahila Manch, Pehchan, Muhim, Parvaaz Sangathan, and, more recently, Bebaak Collective Sahiyar articulated a radical politics, at one with secular and feminist causes.
During the detailed arguments that took place, advocate for Shayara Bano's had contended: “The Muslim husband’s right to ask for divorce by uttering talaq three times in a row is completely unilateral, unguided, absolute and has no rationale. It cannot be identified with Muslim culture and is not part of Muslim law. So it is not part of religion and, hence, not part of the right to practice or propagate religion and deserves no protection.”
The entire battle for basic constitutional rights by aggrieved Muslim women had turned into an ugly one after the self-styled 'leadership' of the community under the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPB) -- discredited on issues of gender justice -- had adamantly refused to rise to the ocacsion and address the existence of a pracice, both un-Islamic and un-Constitutional that was causing immeasurable injustices to Muslim women. This coupled with the Narendra Modi government's crocodile tears for Muslim women made matters worse.
In this context, the statement and interview of Shaista Amber, of the All India Muslim Women's Personal Law Board exclusively to Sabrangindia that "Indian Muslim Women will Walk with the Quran in One Hand and the Constitution in the Other," put things in sharp perspective.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has endorsed the stand of the petitioners as also supported by the central government and demanded a ban on instantaneous triple talaq or talaq-e-bidat and polygamy in its affidavit to Supreme Court on the grounds that these practices are against the rights of Muslim women. "Triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat), nikah halala and polygamy are unconstitutional because they compromise the rights of Muslim Women (or of women who are married into the Muslim community) to their disadvantage, which is detrimental to them and their children. Therefore, these practices should be strictly prohibited," reads the affidavit.The affidavit also adds that the Commission supports the stand taken by the Centre in the Supreme Court last month. "The National Commission is herein supporting the stand taken by the Union of India and is adapting the affidavit filed by them."
Former Union Minister Arif Mohd Khan, who quit the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 to protest its stand on the Shah Bano case, described the triple talaq practice as equivalent to burying alive Muslim women. Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, however, took the stand that triple talaq was a matter of faith and the court should not interfere. Former Union Minister Salman Khurshid, who was allowed by the court to assist it as amicus curiae, told the bench that the system of instant triple talaq “cannot be justified or given legal validity”. He said the practice “was sinful but legal”, prompting one of the judges to wonder whether “something abhorred by religion can be made law by man”.
During the hearings, it was also pointed out to the court that many Islamic nations across the world, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt do not recognise the husband’s right to unilaterally divorce through triple talaq and that Sri Lanka was one of the non-Islamic countries to ban it.
1. Personal Laws of All Faiths Violate Principles of Gender Equality, Why then the Sole Focus Only on Triple Talaq?
2. Modi Govt Position on Triple Talaq Determined by Sectarian Agenda Not Concern for Women’s Equality