This also creates the impression of practically each married Muslim woman living with the issue of triple talaq hanging around her like a sword.
Be it the traditional Indian society or modern, divorce is still not favoured by majority irrespective of which religion the husband-wife belong to. Also, whatever be the differences between the couple, the popular trend is not to go for it if future of children is at stake. However, the manner in which the triple talaq bill has been framed, it clearly suggests that the ruling party has limited understanding about Muslim women from the angle of their religious beliefs and also their socio-economic conditions. Storm raised over the triple talaq issue has clearly created hype about almost every Muslim woman facing trauma of being divorced instantly by her husband without her consent and other family members. This also creates the impression of practically each married Muslim woman living with the issue of triple talaq hanging around her like a sword. This certainly is not the case.
And if the Central government is of the opinion that this is the case, it would be appropriate if it supports this point by coming out with statistical evidence of the number of Muslim women having been divorced in this manner. It is indeed paradoxical that the government has chosen to show such a great concern only towards Muslim women. Why have women of other religious communities been ignored? Does the government fear that talking about marital problems faced by them is likely to alienate a large section of population? It is indeed ironical that the government has not displayed similar concern for Muslim women brutally abused and tortured during Gujarat carnage.
If the government is sincerely concerned about Muslim women, its insistence on ensuring legislation on triple talaq in its present form is hardly indicator of this. As has been stated by many critiques of the bill passed on this in the Lok Sabha, the proposed legislation criminalises triple talaq. Besides, Muslim women’s opposition to triple talaq rests on their unwillingness to be divorced by usage of this practise, that is pronouncement of talaq thrice in a few minutes. But if this step taken by the husband lands him in prison for three years, prospects of his considering reconciliation with his wife and avoiding dissolution of the marriage may be viewed as dead.
Let us also accept the hard reality. Even if the bill assumes the nature of legislation, prospects of it being implemented are likely to be extremely limited. If the husband is imprisoned for indulging in this practise (that of triple talaq), he is also going to be absolved of his responsibility of providing financial support to the wife for a certain period and taking care of his children. In this case, the economic grievances of the divorced lady would only be compounded. Also, chances of her going for a second marriage would be reduced with her having the responsibility of children from the former husband. In view of these circumstances, even if the husband indulges in triple talaq practise, prospects of the wife filing a case against him to send him behind bars for three years may be viewed as good as negligible.
Rather, the bill is equivalent to giving the husband an upper hand in having his say while opting for triple talaq. And this amounts to his blackmailing and/or threatening his (former) wife of withdrawing financial support for her and their children, if she takes legal action against him. This threat is likely to restrict economically weak women from taking legal action even if they have been victimised by the triple talaq practise. The opposition to continuance of this practise rests on married Muslim women’s desire of preferring reconciliation with their husbands and not being divorced.
There is yet another side to triple talaq practise that has not been adequately considered by the government. Ironically, this refers to cases where women would prefer instant divorce rather than being forced to remain married. Yes, there have been instances when women have discovered abnormalities of certain kinds in their husbands because of which they’d rather opt for divorce than remain married. These range from males being gays, already married, involved with someone else, wife-beaters and so forth. Considering that Muslim marriages are based on contracts, called Nikahnamas, it would be more appropriate to include several clauses regarding triple talaq in these.
If the government is really concerned about Muslim women, it should focus on triple talaq issue giving them the upper hand. Rather than raise a storm over it by exciting heated debates, it would be more appropriate to use a strategy that is likely to be more acceptable. Steps are needed to ensure that Nikahnama includes clauses where the husband is not permitted to engage in practice of triple talaq at his will and that too without the wife’s consent. But if a wife and her family members prefer triple talaq, option for it should remain. A legislation is not needed for this. The bill passed in the Lok Sabha lays greater ground for marriages to end, forcing divorces. It is amazing that the ruling party is going overboard on this issue as if it was a key promise made by Narendra Modi during his 2014 parliamentary campaign!
The writer is a senior journalist. She has come out with two books Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp and Image and Substance: Modi’s First Year in Office