Women’s rights in India has always been an important issue, owing to the widespread discrimination against the women in the country. But every now and then, someone from within the society has stood up for the women in the country and has fought for their rights. History is rich with the examples of activists like Rajaram Mohan Roy, Mahatma Phule and others who have spent their entire lives trying to improve the lives of women in the society. However, there is one section of women which has been systematically neglected and purposely kept away even from basic human rights such as right to live with dignity – the Muslim women – and lack of activists or social reformers is not the only reason. One big reason for the plight of Muslim women and lack of women reforms is the dirty politics played by the previous rulers.
Previous rulers, especially the Congress rulers, have always looked at Muslims as a safe vote bank, the group who would vote en masse for them. The Muslim community in India is a highly male dominated community, tightly controlled by the mullahs, imams, maulavis and religious organization like All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). Muslim women, who have always been considered an inferior gender in their community, have little to zero rights and freedom to decide for themselves. This was aptly visible during the recently organized meeting of AIMPLB where majority of men decided that discussing the government’s Triple Talaq bill was bad for women.
The Triple Talaq Bill is a legislation that criminalizes the controversial practice of Triple Talaq, a practice where a man can divorce his wife any time, from anywhere just by saying the word “talaq” three times. The husband does not have to provide any justification, undergo any scrutiny or answer any questions for such divorce. There have been cases where a man has divorced his wife just after bearing a child because she could not “satisfy” her man anymore or when he just randomly finds another woman. Once the woman is divorced, she cannot remarry her ex-husband directly because the practice Nikah Halala does not allow it. Even if the husband and wife want to remarry again, the woman first has to marry another guy, consummate the new marriage and get divorced again before marrying her old husband. We cannot even begin to imagine the mental trauma the poor woman has to go through for no fault of her. Such regressive is the practice called Triple Talaq that even the Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran that follow Sharia Law have banned this practice. This is not a matter of religion, but basic human rights which sadly, the Muslim women in India are yet to receive, even after 70 years of independence. But India, under the garb of secularism, continues to let its Muslim women suffer, purely because of politics of power.
The maulavis and mullahs in the Muslim community hold on to their power by brainwashing the people and dominating and controlling all the aspects of their lives, especially women by continuously oppressing them and making sure they don’t develop. Anyone who dares to question their authority is either labelled anti-Islam or boycotted from the community. Because of the control they exert over the lives of common Muslims, previous Congress governments kept supporting them in exchange of votes. The successive Congress governments, in return, made sure no one questioned the authority of these mullahs and they were able to keep their influence intact over the community. But the real loser in this vote bank politics have been the Muslim women, who still continue to live in the 18th century, oppressed and ignored. PM Modi hit the bull’s eye when he, in his rally, asked if Congress party was the party of Muslim men only because in the entire history of Congress rules, they have not been able to take one decision for the betterment of Muslim women, instead made their lives worse by giving in to the powerful men in the community in exchange for votes. Who can forget the famous Shah Bano case in 1985, where Rajeev Gandhi went against the decision of the Supreme Court to deny justice to a poor Muslim woman who was given Triple talaq by her husband. Even today, when the government is trying hard to pass the Triple Talaq Bill in the Parliament, Congress is opposing it. Ever since the Modi government took a strong stance against Triple Talaq, we have been hearing heart-wrenching cases of Triple talaq and how Muslim women have been bullied and traumatized in the name of a religious practice. Only God is witness to all such tragedies that may have happened before this, which were pushed under the rug just for the mere lust of power.
It is the sad truth of the country that the basic human right to live with dignity for Muslim women in this country needs to be viewed from a religious perspective. Rights of Muslim women in India is a very important issue which has sadly been hijacked by a group of people who, in principle, are opposed to the very concept of women empowerment. And it is time we take the control away from these people, throw the religion out of such an important issue and give women the dignity they rightly deserve.