A government appointed committee has just submitted a report on the status of women in India. Of course, expectations should not be positive. Indian women continue to face oppression in more ways than one both in Hindu as well as Muslim households.
But it is a key recommendation of the committee relating to nature of divorces under the Muslim law that might raise more than a few heckles.
In its report submitted to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the committee has recommended “a complete ban on the oral, unilateral and triple divorce (talaq)”. The committee wrote that the triple talaq, widely practiced among Muslims in India, makes wives “extremely vulnerable and insecure”.
Amrit Dhillon of The Guardian gives us a detailed insight into the fight against triple talaq by a rights group, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, headed in Jaipur by a Muslim woman, Nishat Hussain.
Citing the Quran, the group says that “the word has to be pronounced on three separate occasions spread over three months and must be accompanied by efforts at reconciliation”. But men do not follow the principles.
Many Muslim men have used triple talaq for the slightest of reasons including something as trivial as a wife not dying her hair. Talaq has been declared on Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp, too.
Courts in India hold such a divorce as valid under the Muslim personal law. The absence of a uniform civil code has led to multiple personal laws of both Hindus and Muslims with respect to marriage and divorce.
But if the government tries to act on the recommendations of the committee, it risks facing a backlash from conservative religious organisations. Though one must also note that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board is mulling imposition of a heavy fine on men who divorce without any efforts at reconciliation.
The Hindu law on marriage and divorce too came under the scanner of the committee. The committee recommended that:
1. Provisions relating to restitution of conjugal rights under various statutes
should be deleted.
2. Amendment of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 relating to adultery.
Women are not possessions of their husbands.
3. Irretrievable breakdown of marriage (IBM) should not be a ground for divorce