In a historic voting yesterday, the Muslim Women (Protection on Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 (triple talaq bill) has been passed by both the houses of the Parliament and now awaits the president’s assent. While the citizens are clearly rejoicing; others along the lines of Asaduddin Owaisi are worried about the maintenance to the women, a concern which, unfortunately, laws such as Muslim women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 don’t seem to share. While Asaduddin Owaisi’s ignorance and displeasure, arising from the fact that he is in the opposition is expected, what is surprising is that a number of educated Muslim women have come out to criticize the bill.
Topping the list is the Wire journalist, Arfa Khanum Sherwani. The fact that Arfa loves to peddle the “darra hua musalmaan” narrative is known to all, but this incident enlightens that her outlook isn’t extended towards the muslim women.
She stated, “Let there be no doubt #TripleTalaqBill is an extension of Modi govt’s anti-Muslim politics. It is not only against Muslim men but against Muslim women as well. It satisfies only one agenda of this govt- Demonise Muslim men, Patronise Muslims women. And appease the Hindu vote bank.”
Either Arfa Khanum Sherwani, being an economically independent woman, never had to face any of the regressive practices the bill seeks to curtail; or her need to defend the archaic practices of the religion is beyond region and logic.
Triple talaq is a heinous activity, which gives rise to derogatory practices such as nikha halala. Thousands of women suffer due to this every year, as a report by India Today recently uncovered a business that the Islamic clerics have going in which they offer their services as the “nightly” husband for a substantial price.
Arfa Khanum dares to call it appeasement. Perhaps she isn’t aware of the fact that 35 years ago, in a similar case of one Shah Bano, the Supreme Court paved way for maintenance of the woman, which was subsequently nullified by the ruling government in a blatant attempt to appease the Muslims. In striking contrast, the ruling government of this day has decided to strengthen the apex court’s judgment which is being construed as “appeasement”. The only thing the bill is aimed towards is, is the betterment of the women but yet those who view the bill on political lines are unable understand this.
Arfa Khanum further continued, “The Hon SupremeCourt had already declared the regressive &medieval practice of TripleTalaq unconstitutional. The law adds unnecessary criminality to it making a civil matter,criminal. Shows the govt is not interested in gender equality for Muslim women but only politics over them”
Arfa Khanum blatantly states that “criminality” has been an unnecessary step. By this, she only seeks to display her ignorance that lies in the centuries of established precedence. In a situation wherein a husband pronounces the triple talaq, and the same isn’t criminalized, the prevailing mindset may not allow him to acknowledge the woman as his wife and practicing Islam, he will be free to marry another woman. The husband will bear no repercussions, and neither the law nor the woman to whom triple talaq was given can object to this. In the eyes of the law, the couple will remain married but whether the husband or even the society acknowledges the wife is a different story altogether. Essentially, criminalization is going to act as a deterrence to the husbands having any such ideas. The established norm needs to be changed and for this, a drastic step needs to be taken.
For reasons best known to her, Arfa Khanum states that the bill is “against muslim women”. I beg to differ. The bill, if enacted, is going to offer a choice to the women. The text was the bill clearly states that the offence is a compoundable offence, indicating, that if the woman wants to settle with her husband, she is permissible to do so. Moreover, the complaint can only be filed by the woman or her blood relative. Essentially, the state’s involvement in the offence is minimal.
Not just Arfa Khanum, Zainab Sikander also chose to criticise the bill. Making a bizarre argument, she tweeted, “All men in India can abandon their wives merrily, without any fear of punishment, EXCEPT Muslims. Shouldn’t this be an incentive for women of all religions to marry Muslim men? Greater chance of not being abandoned?”
The bill grants a degree of power and choice to the otherwise subdued women. Their entire life they live under constant threat and insecurity for fear of being divorced by the husband. Not only does it blatantly abrogate the right of equality, since the triple talaq isn’t a reciprocal practice; it drastically affects the psyche of the women, inculcating a sense of submissiveness. The criminalization is going to go a long way in offering some security and power to the otherwise deplorable state of constant insecurity of the Muslim woman.