The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Triple Talaq bill that makes the practice of instant divorce among Muslim community a punishable offense. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018 was cleared by the Lower House of the Parliament with 245 MPs voting in favour and 11 opposing it. The opposition parties staged a walkout as the government declined to accept their demand of sending it to the select committee. The Congress, the AIADMK, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Samajwadi Party MPs staged walk out.
Union Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore taking a jibe at opposition in the Lok Sabha said, “The way Congress walked out today, it exposes their vote bank politics again. It’s their diplomatic nature. Now they’ll try to stop it in Rajya Sabha. But our philosophy is to strengthen everyone and work together.”
Under the proposed law, giving instant triple talaq will be illegal and void, and will invite a jail term of three years for the husband.
While introducing the bill in Lok Sabha, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Don’t weigh the Bill on the scales of politics. The Bill is about humanity and justice… What is held to be bad in holy Quran cannot be good in Sharia and in that sense what is bad in theology is bad in law as well.” He further said that the Bill is aimed at “naari nyaay, naari garima, aur naari sammaan (justice for women, dignity of women, and respect for women)”. Citing a report, he said, “Twenty Islamic nations have banned instant triple talaq, then why can’t a secular nation like India do it? I request that this should not be looked through the prism of politics.” He also asked opposition that “If Dowry law can be passed, why not Triple Talaq Bill.” Prasad while justifying the provision of jail term said, “Deterrence is always important to bring change in the society.”
Prasad while speaking in the Lok Sabha also accused the opposition of playing vote bank politics and maintained that the Bill is not meant to target any community, neither is it “for vote banks”. He said, “We are not targeting any particular community. Between January 2017 and December 2018, 477 triple talaq cases were brought to light in front of us.” He also said that women empowerment is not a political issue for the BJP.
Ravi Shankar Prasad also addressed the issue of maintenance of Muslim women and spoke about the provision of jail-term for those convicted under the Bill if it becomes an Act. He said, “The Bill gives the power to the Magistrate to decide on the maintenance. The Magistrate will also decide on the bail, only after the hearing of the victim.”
Law Minister in his address in the Lok Sabha lambasted the opposition for playing politics over the issue of empowerment of Muslim women and pointed out that the incumbent government had already addressed the concerns of the opposition. Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government had made several amendments to the Bill introduced in 2017 after the opposition had raised objections, and the offence has been made compoundable, which means that the case can be taken back if the victim and her husband reaches to settlement or agreement. He said according to the Bill, only the wife and her close relatives can file an FIR, ruling out the possibility of law’s misuse.
Earlier, Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 was passed in the Lower House of the Parliament in 2017. The Bill had faced resistance in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP led central government does not enjoy the majority. The Bill was pending in the Rajya Sabha. The government addressed the concerns of the Opposition and made several amendments including the introduction of a bail provision, to make it more acceptable to the opposition parties.
Despite the amendment, the Bill continued to face resistance in the Rajya Sabha, and therefore the government issued an ordinance in September, incorporating amendments.
On September 19 this year, the Union Cabinet approved an ordinance making instant Triple Talaq a punishable offense in the country. The Bill was introduced in the Parliament again on December 17. This Bill is set to replace the ordinance issued by the Union government in September banning the Triple Talaq. An ordinance has a life of only six months. But from the commencement of a session, it has to be replaced by a bill which should be cleared by the Parliament within six weeks, else it lapses.
On 27 December Lok Sabha cleared the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018 will supersede the previous bill passed on December 28, 2017, and now it will move to the Rajya Sabha for the clearance.
The government’s move to end this outdated practice which affects a large number of women from the Muslim community has been highly appreciated by the women from the folds of Islam. The threat of a sudden, oral and out of court divorce which could arise out of the blue, to dent their lives forever was too much for almost 90 million Muslim women of India. The obsolete law which is unequal in nature clearly gave extra and unfair rights to the men of the Muslim. In Murshidabad district of West Bengal, over 100,000, Muslim women have suffered because of misogynist practices like triple talaq. The divorce rate of Muslim women is twice the national average. According to this report, in India for every 1,000 married Hindu women, 2.6 are divorced, while for 1,000 married Muslim women, 5.6 of them are divorced. About 78.7% of Muslim divorcees are women; for Hindus, this figure is 64.2%.
All the previous regimes, mainly Congress, ignored the concerns and sufferings of Muslim women. Their secularism remained confined to only appeasement politics to reap electoral benefits. It is because of such appeasement politics of the pseudo secular parties and misogynist attitude that the Muslim women of India were deprived of rights what other Indian women possess. Just because of such attitudes of the Congress party, PM Modi mocked it and called it a party of only Muslim men at a rally in Azamgarh.