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The practice of Triple Talaaq first received wider notice due to the B.R.Chopra movie, Nikaah. Decades later, the Supreme Court has finally halted the instant version of Triple Talaq. A closer look.
Triple Talaaq – the concept dawned upon the cinematic genius of B.R Chopra when he roped in Salma Agha for his Muslim social Nikaah. The movie was a blockbuster and the nasal twang of Aghas voice was an instant hit. We got a break from the Latas and Ashas and were hooked on to the lilting melodies from the movie. Women cried buckets over the failed marriage and the resonating Talaaq Talaaq Talaaq echoed by a loser of a husband.
Such a cruel world when a porcelain Pakistani beauty was relegated to the shadows in her post Talaaq status! The plot maneuvered on to another man in the narrative who assures her of love and bonding but to no avail; as the husband’s male ego laments the loss of the woman to another man.
Long story short; as usual, a woman used as a ping pong ball, who eventually takes a call about her life, as an individual first.
Such cinematic contexts provided a liberal dose of facts and fallacy intertwined into each other. Humour and exaggerated romanticism cloaked the facts on the ground but nonetheless brought to the fore, the harsh realities of society.
The cinematic context acts as a prologue and a backdrop to a more serious reality which culminated into the recent Supreme Court verdict in the purview of Indian Muslim society. Abolishing the unfair and regressive practice of instant Triple Talaaq for a period of six months until a law in this respect is formulated is a feat of sorts. It alleviates the suffering of the petitioning women and eliminates their stigmatization. These women have come a long way since the Shah Bano case hit headlines decades back, although manipulation of politico-religious nexus to exploit women was and remains a given. There’s much to learn from the resilience of these women, and it goes on to show that religious diktats maneuvered by men to suit their ilk, can’t be a norm anymore.
Some have questioned the veracity of the judgement basis the fact that it wasn’t an Islamic practice and was followed by a handful from the ‘Hanafi’ sect. They lament that the government and media has tried to sabotage and defame Islam and Muslims by virtue of highlighting the issue and the judgment, when it remains a non-issue. What about the ills that pervade Hindu society, which discriminates against women on many grounds, they opine. Their defense also gets vociferous when they cite the existence of ‘Isma’, ‘Muttah’, ‘Khulaa’ and phased procedure of ‘Talaaq’ when it comes to Islamic scriptures and safeguarding of women’s rights therein.
However if we envision the bigger picture, ‘Talaaq-e-biddat’ or Talaaq raised to the power three was nothing but a power ploy to subjugate and dis-empower women. Its relevance and applicability is redundant in contemporary times and therefore it just remains a regressive patriarchal tool for men to have their way. In Urdu terminology ‘Biddat’ implies a liability, a worthless burden; and such a scourge of a practice, even if at 0.3% of statistics, stands out like a sore in a civilized society. It sure was a blot and insult to the dignity of those nine women who were shunned at the drop of a hat (read the word Talaaq) by their husbands, without any attempt for reconciliation.
As per the five bench judge panel which gave the verdict, three opined that it violated the premise of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India, particularly Articles 14 (equality before law), 15 (protection against discrimination) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty). However there was a dichotomy between the regulation of practice, as endorsed by ‘Shariat’ (Muslim personal Law Application Act, 1937) and the religious practice of uncodified personal law.
The former could be examined for any violation of fundamental rights as cited, but there was ambiguity of the latter being under the scanner. However the five judge bench, after due deliberations found that the practice couldn’t even benefit from Article 25 of the Constitution (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion), as it was also inconsistent to the purview of Islamic practices as enshrined in Islam.
There’s been a unanimous applause in favor of the verdict, citing it as a necessary step in reforming inherently patriarchal and discriminatory practices. However the law in its formulation and during the deliberations laid more emphasis on the doctrine of arbitrariness with respect to constitutional clauses applicable against Triple Talaaq. In the bargain it tends to overlook the gender dynamics and justice from a female point of view, wherein a woman is discriminated against as a consequence of her gender.
Triple Talaaq in its genesis is antithetical to gender justice, to Article 15 and to the clauses of Convention on the ‘Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW). This lack of clarity on gender discrimination viz a viz jurisprudence remains a lacunae which needs more foresight in future, while tackling such cases. Between freedom of religion and rights of a woman, the latter should always take precedence, if we want to do away with distortion of religious scriptures as per suitability, and against women.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) put forward the dichotomy between religion and fundamental rights by opining that “Court order has affected the rights of religious minority to practice their religion”. This shows how gender equality and women rights take second lead when men dominate religion. Gender parity still remains a bone of contention when Talaq-e-biddat has been declared unconstitutional, but Talaaq-e-Sunnat (Shariah based divorce) exists, giving Muslim men the leverage to divorce their wives without resorting to legal angles.
The contractual nature of marriage in Islam can go both ways and therefore gender parity remains an issue, if gender based decisions aren’t taken. For the same reasons, Muslim Personal Laws needs reform, as and when it may sabotage the role and rights of women, in her placement between religion/patriarchy and constitutional rights.
Are women from other religions safeguarded and not discriminated against?
Wome’n Reservation Bill, Lokpal Bill, Gender Discrimination or Permanent Residents Bill of Jammu & Kashmir state, fraud NRI marriages in Punjab, Khaap panchayats and misogyny, honor killings, women’s safety in India, Rape law amendments, sexual harassment at workplace, increasing crime against women, female feticide/infanticide and gender imbalance, dowry scourge/deaths and lavish weddings, discrimination against girl child, women trafficking and prostitution, marital rape, religion/superstition based witch hunting, caste based atrocities and associated crimes against women; All these and more, are universal issues, deeply entrenched against women, in our societal fabric.
Religious dominance and gender sensitization are antithetical to each other and universally applicable to women from all religions. Till the time such an imbalance doesn’t get cured, women would get exploited in some way or the other, and therefore there’s a plethora of issues which call for strict law formulation and adherence to.
We may be a ‘sanskari’ nation, where societal institutions hold utmost relevance for both gender; however many a times we overlook the odds and vices that creep into them by virtue of religion and patriarchy. The totality of this conundrum doesn’t augur well for either gender in the long run.
Top image is a still from the 1982 movie referenced above, Nikaah