Triple talaq debate: Don’t be provoked! This isn’t about religion, it’s about treating women as human beings with dignity!

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Published: February 16, 2017 10:59:27 PM

The issue of triple talaq will soon be heard by the Supreme Court as Chief Justice JS Khehar pointed out in court that it is an ''important issue, cannot be scuttled.'

A draft on Muslim family laws prepared by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan makes an attempt to codify the Muslim personal laws in consonance with the values and principles of the Quran. (Reuters)A draft on Muslim family laws prepared by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan makes an attempt to codify the Muslim personal laws in consonance with the values and principles of the Quran. (Reuters)

The issue of triple talaq will soon be heard by the Supreme Court as Chief Justice JS Khehar pointed out in court that it is an ”important issue, cannot be scuttled.’ His observation is praise-worthy, so is the move to tackle it head-on by setting up a Constitution bench. However, the socio-political implications will have far-reaching consequences in a country that is governed by different personal laws in the matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance. One of the difficulties in holding an open debate on the matter is that you will find yourself in ”hot soup” because the debate will not be about Muslim women or their rights. It will be about your interference in personal laws that have nothing to do with you personally. The question is bound to come up, “It doesn’t affect you or your community so why are you interfering? Are you interfering in matters of our religion?”

Let us understand one simple fact – triple talaq does not affect the personal lives of politicians or the political parties they are affiliated with. The problem is bigger than we can imagine because it affects the lives of thousands of Muslim women in India. Why are their voices not heard? Why is there no regulatory authority to understand their problems and document the data pertaining to the practice of triple talaq in India and the challenges it presents to the society as a whole?

When the Law Commission of India made a commendable move in October 2016 to seek the views of the public through a questionnaire regarding how family laws in the country can be reformed, there was an uproar over Question no 7 which asked: ”Should triple talaq be abolished?” and it listed out three options as answers to consider.

The questionnaire clearly stated its objectives so that all stake-holders can engage in a direct, open and healthy conversation about how you feel about the issue.

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The questionnaire does not pressurise anyone to write anything against religion, community or faith – in fact, for those who support the practice of triple talaq, this opportunity provides a sound platform to showcase their rationale. Then why was there a carefully calibrated political uproar over a healthy debate?

A simple reason – it suits everyone to keep women in the dark and that is the plain truth.

There is nothing derogatory about the questions framed by the Law Commission of India but the responses it drew were nothing less than explosive. As you can guess, sentiments ran high and politicians milked it for whatever it was worth to stay in the headlines. The All India Personal Law Board and politicians like Owaisi called it an attack on the freedom of Muslims in India.

A draft on Muslim family laws prepared by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan makes an attempt to codify the Muslim personal laws in consonance with the values and principles of the Quran. Significant changes proposed in the draft include three forms of legal separation between the husband and wife, recognizing the practice of halala and muta marriage (temporary) marriage as offences, among others.

Let this be an open debate, not about religion, but about rationality and practicality. A debate on triple talaq should neither provoke nor invoke public sentiment as much as it triggers a public debate. Such a debate would be a welcome sign of a mature community that adapts to change and diversity by embracing an inclusive approach.

There can also be panel discussions regarding the pros and cons and the practical solutions. Women, being the key stakeholders, should be well-represented in all discussions as the matter affects them directly. The draft on Muslim family laws prepared by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan can be discussed and analysed by academia, scholars from the community and other eminent legislators and jurists. A balanced and practical solution can pave the way for streamlining family law reforms in India.

A piece of unsolicited advice though – keep all politicians and political parties out of the triple talaq debate – they will find reasons to build bridges for themselves even when there is not a drop of water beneath!

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