Can a law on triple talaq really empower muslim women?
Triple talaq is an age old Muslim practice in India whereby a husband can divorce, uttering the word talaq three times to his wife. In this day of hi-tech digital technologies, triple talaq can be done through phone, SMS or even email. This practice dissolves a marriage and women are left destitute without homes in many cases.
It has come in the news as Muslim women have now challenged the practice in the apex court of India, the SC as unconstitutional and filed a PIL for scrapping section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law Shariat Application Act 1937, terming it against Article 14 of the Indian constitution.
The case is being currently heard at the Supreme Court and has sparked a debate among the feminist and progressive Muslim intelligentsia on the one hand and conservative religious leaders on the other. Let us try to see both the sides of the debate and find out if the SC judgement is indeed the relief which is the need of the hour for the Muslim community. Yes 1. Abolish A Discriminatory Practice and Empower Women
There is a strong case for the abolition of triple talaq as this custom discriminates between men and women. While men can divorce their wives by merely saying talaq thrice and move on with their lives, women are left uncared for, unprotected and cannot get even the minimal relief like receiving meher as a result of marital dissolution under Muslim personal law. 2. Protecting Women's Rights
Muslim women will benefit from the judgment because it protects women's rights to say no to triple talaq. Otherwise, women have no means of protecting themselves financially or socially. 3. Legal Remedies Time Consuming
Legal remedies under current law are very cumbersome and time consuming. To protect the rights of the Muslim women, the SC judgement is a timely and effective intervention. 4. Custom Abolished in Progressive Muslim States
Moreover, this custom has been abolished in progressive Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why should Indian Muslim women be left behind when the global scenario has changed? Women will definitely benefit from the SC judgement because it is in line with progressive, international trends. No 1. Divorce Rate Lowest Among Muslims
Conservatives have argued that the divorce rate is lowest among Muslims and the community members do not give oral divorce recklessly. 2. Sharia Law is Strict
The restrictions on the practice of oral law can be given only for reasons prescribed in the Sharia. For example, there are time based restrictions of 13 months before the word can be repeated thrice. This gives divorced couples ample opportunity for reconciliation.3. No to Triple Talaq by SC Not Winning Over All
Moreover, the practice of saying no to triple talaq may be given legal power, but unless it is accepted by members of the community, including religious and conservationist leaders, this practice will never gain credibility in Muslim society and women will continue to suffer, despite having legal rights. A case in point are dowry prohibition laws which do not act as a sufficient deterrent in many cases, because the social mores support this illegal practice.4. Reform Has to Come From Within
The practice of triple talaq supported by custom need not be unconstitutional. This can only be and women can only be empowered if the reform comes from within the community and its religious leaders, rather than court judgements.
Real empowerment will come only after improvement in the financial and economic conditions of Muslims in general and women in particular, rather than by the judgements of the Court. The court judgement should also be accepted by the community if it intends to empower women and end gender discrimination.