On Tuesday, India shunned all the notions of pseudo-secularism that have plagued its politics for long and in a progressive step gave legislative sanction to criminalize the archaic practice of instant triple talaq ultimately restoring lost dignity of Muslim women reeling under regressive religious laws. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the nation and said “An archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history! Parliament abolishes Triple Talaq and corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women. This is a victory of gender justice and will further equality in society. India rejoices today”
An archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history!
Parliament abolishes Triple Talaq and corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women. This is a victory of gender justice and will further equality in society.
India rejoices today!
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 30, 2019
Nonetheless for the Muslim women a large part of their dignity still reels at the mercy of radical and archaic religious laws which govern their lives at the cost of their rights and safety. The first example where the call for rights of Muslim women was stamped under Pseudo-Secularism and vote bank politics was in the Rajiv Gandhi government. Arif Mohammad Khan, ex-union Minister in the cabinet of Rajeev Gandhi recalled the incident in an interview:
“The then-government used its legislative powers to overturn a Supreme Court judgment that had awarded a small sum of less than 300 rupees to a destitute Muslim woman, who was subjected to triple divorce by her prosperous lawyer husband.”
The successful triple talaq legislation, however, has paved the way for government action against regressive practices and unequal laws solely based on religious sanctions. The concept of Muslim personal law is one such example of unequal laws contrary to the spirit of the Indian constitution’s notion of equality under law. There are multiple issues where law is different for so-called minority community but are protected in the name of ‘Muslim personal law’.
Inheritance laws for Muslim women are another issue where women are discriminated with respect to males in Islam. In case of the death of an ancestors Muslim women is entitled to half the share in the inheritance as compared to her male counterpart, which is not only out rightly discriminatory on the basis of gender but also puts Muslim women at a disadvantage when compared to their male siblings. In case of inheriting property from a deceased spouse also women are at a disadvantaged for instance, a wife takes 1/4th of share in a case where the couple is without lineal descendants and a one-eighth share otherwise. A husband (in the case of succession to the wife’s estate) takes a ½ in a case where the couple is without lineal descendants and a ¼ th share otherwise. Basically here too a man is entitled to a greater share of inheritance in case of an unfortunate event.
Muslim women are only entitled for alimony during the period of iddat (nine months) during which the divorce is finalized but there is no clear provision which provides a safety net for her after the ending of this iddat period, Nonetheless Supreme Court on various instances held that Muslim women have the right to receive alimony after the ‘iddat’ period.
Several practices like Nikah halala also survive and desecrate dignity of Muslim Women till date and need to be discarded similar to the practice instant triple talaq. According to the practice in Muslim law a Muslim man has the liberty to divorce and remarry the same women twice, However if for the third time the man wishes to divorce her and remarry the women can only be remarried to him if she marries another man, consummates the marriage, and that man dies or willingly asks for divorce, only then she be married to her first husband. Several reports of Muslim Women being sexually exploited under the garb of Nikah halala have also surfaced.
As India progresses ahead and makes way for equal rights for women, free from pseudo-secular bias these archaic practices call for major reforms and ultimately pave a way for Uniform Civil Code to be implemented so that women from all the communities can enjoy equal rights which the constitution has guaranteed them. The successful passage of Triple Talaq legislation has given the right kind of impetus and set the tone for such reforms.