There are four or five judgments where the triple talaq provision has been struck down as invalid. But it has not led to this un-Koranic practice being rooted out from our society. Triple talaq continues to be the most common method of divorce. We had done a sample study of 4,710 women and found that out of 525 women who were divorced, 349 were victims of triple talaq. While the courts have settled the matter, we have to look at the unjustness of the entire process. How can we accept that a man can simply utter the word talaq thrice or communicate it through phone with no witness deemed necessary and where the burden is on the wife to legally contest it? There is no law binding the man, he can just act on his whim. This is absolutely unfair and must be stopped.
Seeking a level playing field
Let me cite a case from Madhya Pradesh where a woman who did not wake up when her husband returned late from work received talaq thrice when she was asleep! She was informed about her husband’s decision by her mother-in-law. It is a convoluted argument to say that triple talaq is not an issue only because a few judgments have declared it invalid. Why should a man have unilateral powers to divorce, and the woman just comply? What is wrong in seeking a level playing field between husband and wife? Such arguments only further the patriarchal order.
As far as the Koran is concerned, triple talaq is just not valid. There are verses calling for reconciliation and mediation over a period of 90 days involving both sides. The objective is that the woman should not be rendered a destitute. Also, when the final pronouncement of talaq is made, the women should not be menstruating. This is an evolved system of jurisprudence calling for just and fair divorce.
All we are seeking is that the Supreme Court should lay down the procedure for talaq based on the talaq-e-ehsan method. There is a debate about personal laws being violative of fundamental rights. But the personal law being practised by the Muslim community in India is not based on Koranic injunctions. Rather triple talaq is a violation of the tenets of justice and fairness.
Gender justice is a central tenet of the Koran and gender inequality and triple talaq are in violation of the Koranic principles. In fact, in the Koran, the very conception of humankind is based on an equal footing between man and woman. But patriarchal misinterpretations and distortions rule our lives. Any talk of reform in personal law is brushed aside as interference in religious matters.
On a Uniform Civil Code
As far as our position on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is concerned, we are clear that a secular law alternative must be available to every citizen. This alternative exists in the form of the Special Marriages Act. But abolition of triple talaq and UCC are two separate issues. The UCC question applies to the entire Indian population, not just Muslims. Muslim personal law needs drastic reform just like the Hindu code or the Christian laws. There has been a legal discrimination of Muslim women in our country. Muslim women are still subject to the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 which is silent on triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy. We need to be brought on a par with Hindu sisters and Christian sisters who have a legal recourse. The Hindu women have the Hindu Succession Act and the Hindu Marriage Act. We are a patriarchal society and it is not as though Hindu and Christian women have attained equality. But they do not face legal discrimination the way Muslim women do.
It is the constitutional obligation of the government to enable Muslim women to obtain justice. It is not about the BJP or the government but about gender justice for Muslim women.