BJP Member of Parliament and Union minister MJ Akbar on Thursday launched a spirited defence of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 that seeks to end the practice of instant triple talaq. The statements of Akbar, who is a former Congress MP but now representing the BJP in Parliament, not just provoked fiery exchanges but also laughter in the House. Akbar even quoted that Jawaharlal Nehru had once claimed that the Hindu Code Bill was his biggest achievement. But when the late PM was asked about the time Muslim women will also enjoy such reform, Nehru had famously said, “there was no opportune time”. Poking fun at the Congress, Akbar answered the question that was asked to Nehru, saying the “time had come”.
Akbar also said that Indira Gandhi could have also brought in reforms for Muslim women as she was herself a woman and also enjoyed a brute majority in the Parliament. But she didn’t and instead created the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. During the speech, Akbar cited Quranic verses to say that Islam warrants the highest respect for women’s dignity and life.
Watch MJ Akbar’s spirited defence of Triple Talaq:
The triple talaq bill is now in the Rajya Sabha. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday after facing controlled opposition from the other parties. The bill seeks to end the practice of triple talaq which allows Muslim men to instantly divorce their wives by just saying the word talaq thrice.
The lower House of Parliament passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill by voice vote. The bill not just makes instant triple talaq null and void but also makes its pronouncement punishable by up to three years in jail. It will be a non-bailable, cognisable offence. The passage of the bill by the Lok Sabha evoked mixed reactions. Some hailed it “historic”, others said it was a “sad day” and the Parliament move was “shocking.”
“What is historic is that the Congress party also supported it. Both the government and the key opposition party are on board. Congress acknowledged the need for a law (on instant triple talaq). It is symbolic of the fact that Muslim women’s voices have now been heard across the political class — that is a big achievement in itself,” Zakia Soman, co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), was quoted as saying by PTI. BMMA was one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court on the issue of talaq-e-biddat.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising was, however, shocked over the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha. She was a counsel for Bebaak Collective on the issue of triple talaq in Supreme Court. “Very shocked to hear that Lok Sabha has passed the bill. I would have expected the bill to go to the Standing Committee before it came to the Lok Sabha, which was not done,” Jaising told PTI, adding, she was opposed to criminalisation of triple talaq. “I would say that some of our worst fears have come true. That the intention of the government was not to protect these women but to re-victimise them. This bill is patently discriminatory and unconstitutional and it should be challenged,” she said.