The Triple Talaq Bill – Yay or Nay?

 

Nandini Arora works as a Brand Manager in a Software Development company in New Delhi. Although married to numbers, her first love has always been books and writing. She regularly writes about issues such as women’s safety, Feminism, LGBTQ etc. on her blog nandiniaroraweb.wordpress.com

The Triple Talaq Bill – Yay or Nay?

If you’re following the news, you’ve probably heard about the Triple Talaq Bill.

If you’re Muslim, your future probably depends on it.

The bill was introduced to the Rajya Sabha on the 3rd of January ‘18 after having being passed by the Lok Sabha only days before. The RS hit a snag due to disagreements between the government and the opposition (no surprise there!) and now the future of Indian Muslim men and women hangs by the balance.

Ever since its introduction, the bill has met a mixed response throughout the country. Despite the bill attempting to bring a revolutionary change to the law, it isn’t perfect and that’s what is bothering people. As the name suggests, the bill concerns with the Islamic practice of triple talaq a.k.a talaq-e-bidat which basically means that a muslim man can end his marriage to a woman, without any justification or promise of alimony, by simply saying the word ‘talaq’ or divorce thrice. Now, I know that sounds unfair to the wife. Well, so does the government. Hence, the bill.

The Supreme Court in 2017 declared the Triple Talaq unconstitutional by a 3:2 majority. Chief Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the judges who voted against the practice, said, “On the statement that triple talaq is an integral part of the religious practice, I respectfully disagree. Merely because a practice has continued for long, that by itself cannot make it valid.” The government has six months, until February ’18, to make a law to support that. We’re only one month away to the deadline and don’t even have a properly drafted bill that everyone would agree on, let alone pass it to make it a law.

The issue that everyone has with the bill isn’t that they don’t want Muslim women to be free of the fear of the unfair practice. It’s 2018 and high time we get rid of any such practices that are discriminatory towards women. The issue is that it’s not fair to the men. One of the key aspects of women rights and feminism is that it isn’t a man vs. woman fight. Arguing for a woman should never mean throwing the man under the bus and the bill does exactly that.

In short, according to the current draft of the bill, “pronouncement of talaq by a person upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, shall be void and illegal.” (Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2017, Section 3). According to the bill, the punishment for attempting to divorce one’s wife through any of the above mentioned ways is imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years in addition to a fine. Furthermore, the wife is entitled to custody of her minor children and allowance for them and her, the amount of which shall be decided by the court. A triple talaq, according to the current draft of the bill, is a cognizable and non-bailable offence (Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2017, Section 5, 6 and 7). A cognizable offence means that a police officer has the authority to make an arrest without a warrant and to start an investigation with or without the permission of a court (Wikipedia). A non-bailable offence means that the accused can only be granted bail under special circumstances, by the court only, if he manages to produce sufficient evidence to justify his bail request.

You can read the bill here: http://www.livelaw.in/triple-talaq-bill-passed-loksabha/

Before we hurry on to declare this a win for Indian Muslim women, we need to pause and think if the bill is simply trying to fill the jail cells with Muslim men because that’s what is going to happen if the current form of the bill is passed. The bill is a major victory when it comes to the lives of Muslim women of our country, there’s no doubt about that but at the same time, it’s also slightly unjust to Muslim men. As a feminist, I jump with joy to see my Muslim women friends finally get justice, but the same feminism is what makes me point out the bias in the bill.

We live in a developing country where most people hold backward ideologies. Combined with the state of education and lack of awareness in the country, majority of the victims are women. The law needs to be slightly biased to protect them. But we also need to think that if the bill is passed without serious discussion or debate, it might create more victims than the people it will protect. Penalising of the triple talaq simply criminalises of divorce and that is not the solution to the problem because divorce isn’t a crime. In addition to that, in lots of Muslim families in India, the husband is the sole bread earner of the family. If he is sent to jail, how is the family supposed to fend for themselves? Secondly, how does the government expect the husband to afford the allowance he’s supposed to pay his family from behind bars? In addition, the bill in its current form is cognizable which leaves a lot of room for misuse.

The government is simply trying to hurry before the session closes and with a bill this major, we need to be careful because there’s a lot of lives at stake. There’s no perfect answer here. But there need to be changes so that we have a more fair law.

Opinions are of the writer.

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