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Justice wins the day

The brave women who challenged this shameful practice finally taste success.

Justice wins the day

The Supreme Court made history this week, when, in a landmark verdict, it 'set aside' the centuries-old practice of instant triple talaq, where Muslim men divorce their wives by simply uttering 'talaq, talaq, talaq' in quick succession. The apex court thus ended a source of injustice, with a 3:2 majority, which ruled that this form of talaq is "manifestly arbitrary" allowing marital ties to be "capriciously and whimsically" broken by a Muslim man. This also violated Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equal protection by law to both men and women. With no chance for reconciliation, many Muslim women had found themselves in pitiable conditions, with no recourse available in civil law.

It is now for the BJP-led NDA government to act efficiently in six months time, during which the SC verdict is operative. They must bring up a detailed legislation to completely end the obnoxious practice of triple talaq. It is a matter of regret that, when every Muslim country has legally prohibited triple talaq, in India, the Muslim Personal Board and its supporters defended this shameful practice. Muslim countries which abolished triple talaq include Bangladesh, fanatically Islamic Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Turkey. The Person Law Board is a body of clerics, and history shows that they take longer than normal to move ahead with times. In his famous speech, Mustafa Kamal Pasha, the leader of Turkey, blamed the Muslim clergy for the social and educational backwardness of the community.
It is to be noted that Arif Mohammad Khan had famously quit in protest as minister of state in the Rajiv Gandhi government after the enactment of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act in 1986, which overturned the Supreme Court's historic Shah Bano judgment—the last such landmark case on Muslim women preceding the Supreme Court's latest verdict which ruled instant talaq as unconstitutional.
Arif Khan says the abolition of triple talaq by the SC is a big victory. "I welcome this verdict. I honestly feel that we are not in a position today to make a realistic assessment of the positive fallout this judgment would have on the future of Muslims. The real problem is that a Muslim girl grows with this consciousness that after marriage her husband can turn her out of the house by simply saying talaq thrice. This apparent law on triple talaq had distorted the minds of the Muslim world. Now, they will see a new Muslim community growing in India which will not have the fear of triple talaq among them." At a historic time like this, it is imperative to remember some of the Muslim women who vociferously fought for their right to liberation.
Shayara Bano, 38, is a resident of Kashipur, Uttarakhand. She was divorced through a speed post on October 10, 2015, after 15 years of marriage to a property dealer Rizwan Ahmed. Bano, a mother of two children, both of whom were taken away from her after divorce, said she was tortured and abused by her in-laws for dowry while also being forced to undergo six abortions. A post graduate in sociology, now pursuing her MBA, Bano said she would take up a job and continue her fight for the rights and dignity of Muslim women. Shayara filed a petition in the Supreme Court against triple talaq. The BJP-led NDA filed an affidavit in the apex court against triple talaq based on the petition. She hopes her daughter doesn't undergo the traumatic experience that she did.
Another crusader is Ishrat Jahan from Howrah, West Bengal. Triple talaq was pronounced to her over a phone call in 2014. Married at 15, she had four children before her husband SK Murtaza divorced her. Clad from head to toe in a burqa, Ishrat is a pious Muslim woman and would have stayed a homemaker had she not been thrust into the legal fight by her husband's actions. A week after talaq in April 2014, her husband remarried. Two of her children, the eldest – a daughter—and the youngest—a son, made their way to her home. She is now fighting for the custody of her other two daughters. She says the present SC verdict should lead to introspection and lead to reforms on how women are perceived. Only then will it manifest into a meaningful change.
Gulshan Parveen, 31, from Rampur, received her divorce notice on a Rs. 10 stamp paper when she was visiting her parents in 2015 after two years of marriage. Parveen refused to accept the notice, after which her husband moved to a family court. She says she and her two-year-old son were suddenly homeless after her husband's whim to separate. Parveen's husband lived in Noida, where he worked, while she stayed with her in-laws in Rampur. She says she was tortured for dowry. Her husband was arrested last year on charges of dowry harassment and criminal intimidation. Parveen is a post-graduate in English literature and now lives in Delhi. She filed a petition against triple talaq that was clubbed with Shayara Bano's plea.
Atiya Sabri, 38, lives in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. She was divorced on a piece of paper. A post graduate in sociology, she was married in 2012 to Wazid Ali. She objected and moved to court when her husband gave her talaq on a piece of paper. Her in-laws got a decree from Deoband justifying the talaq. Later she filed a dowry harassment case against her in-laws. Her husband and father-in-law were arrested. Sabri has two daughters, aged 3 and 4. Her plea was that the talaq given to her cannot be justified. "I need justice as I have to raise my daughters", she pleaded. She approached the Supreme Court in January challenging her divorce.
The triple talaq notice came to 27-year-old Aafreen Rehman by speed post. Her Indore- based lawyer husband, Syed Ashar Ali Waris, wrote talaq three times and posted it to her via speed post less than two years after their wedding in 2014. On September 27, 2015, Afreen was shown the door after being thrashed by her husband over petty arguments. She filed a petition in the Supreme Court in May 2016. Upbeat over the Supreme Court's verdict Rehman says it may not give a new lease of life to her relationship but it will prevent hundreds of women from undergoing the same unfortunate ordeal.
There are innumerable cases like the ones mentioned. The Modi government will do a great service to the Muslim community if it promptly brings up a detailed legislation to forever annihilate the obnoxious practice of triple talaq.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

Harihar Swarup

Harihar Swarup

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