Triple talaq, twin Delhis — the many layers

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(Last Updated On: September 9, 2016)

As the debate over triple talaq and polygamy ignited by a recent Supreme Court case continues, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s defence of the practices has found support from some Muslim women.

The AIMPLB had submitted in an affidavit before the Supreme Court that both practices were not desirable, but were permitted in Islam. Muslim women’s groups, both Left- and Right-leaning, had opposed this stance.

Interference opposed

Highlighting the divide, several Muslim women from Old Delhi have maintained that the court should not interfere with religious matters.

On a visit to the Walled City recently, every woman spoke with either defended the AIMPLB’s stand that both triple talaq and polygamy were permitted in Islam or said they were indifferent to the issue as it had not affected them personally. Zaira Bano, a Ballimaran resident and stay-at-home mother of six, said there was “nothing to be done” once a man decided to divorce his wife.

‘It comes from above’

“It comes from above,” she said pointing skywards, referring to the Koran permitting triple talaq and polygamy.

She added that men only exercised the right to marry again or divorce when the marriage was not working out.

“Only those women who do wrong things have problems. If a husband is being nagged or troubled, what else is he supposed to do,” she asked.

Shazia, also from Old Delhi, who recently completed a fashion design course, said the option of divorce was needed as sometimes relationships did not work out.

“You can’t just ban triple talaq,” she said.

 However, these opinions cannot be seen as representative as recent studies have suggested that attitudes are changing.

Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said a study by the organisation found that 92 per cent of women surveyed in 10 States wanted an end to triple talaq. Thousands of Muslim women signed a petition demanding a stop to the practice as well.

“There is a change in the attitudes as Muslim women are talking about these issues now. We are getting calls from men whose relatives are facing destitution after being divorced unilaterally. They want an end to this,” she said.

Farha Faiz, a respondent in the Supreme Court case who is associated with the RSS-linked Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh, said the combination of a male-dominated society, poor education levels and socio-economic factors led to a lack of awareness among women.

“Nobody is willing to read the Sharia and understand the meaning. The women tend to follow the head of the family and the clergymen who tell them that they have to accept whatever their husbands do,” Ms. Faiz, a Supreme Court lawyer, said.

She, however, said things were changing and educated young women were more aware of their rights.

Flavia Agnes, a Supreme Court lawyer, said the real problem was the lack of legal awareness among women. She said there were legal options available to Muslim women if they did not want to accept a triple divorce.

“Muslim women can challenge the triple talaq.The Supreme Court judgment in the Shamima Ara vs Uttar Pradesh case in 2002 gives them the option to invoke the Domestic Violence Act,” Ms. Agnes said.

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