Make Triple Talaq Punishable But Not Criminal Offence: Muslim Women Ahead of Bill

Representative photo. (Network18 Creatives)

Representative photo. (Network18 Creatives)

Speaking on the important gender-just provisions that should be included in the Bill, Zakia Soman from BMMA said that the purpose of this Bill is gender justice, “Criminalization in itself cannot serve the objective.”

Eram Agha
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New Delhi: Two days before tabling of the Muslim Women Bill in Parliament, some women who came out against triple talaq believe that criminalizing the practice won’t get them gender justice, instead the law would only be a ploy for the government to target Muslim men.

However, other victims of the triple talaq practice beg to disagree.

Muslim women activists who fought in the Supreme Court and had suffered because of the un-Islamic practice argue that criminalization “cannot serve the objective” as marriage is a civil matter.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 will be tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 28, 2017 and Ravi Shankar Prasad will introduce the Bill to “protect the rights of married Muslim women” and stop the practice of instant triple talaq.

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), one of the petitioners in the case titled Muslim Women's Quest for Equality, says that the Bill should be referred to the Standing Committee of the Parliament and amendments should be made.

Speaking on the important gender-just provisions that should be included in the Bill, Zakia Soman from BMMA said that the purpose of this Bill is gender justice, “Criminalization in itself cannot serve the objective.”

Recognizing the importance of deterrence in law, the group further demands, “The deterrence in this law should be guided by the other progressive laws such as the bigamy law, dowry law or the law against domestic violence. Marriage is a civil matter and there is punishment. It should be treated like that and there should be a fear of punishment,” said BMMA.

Citing an example of the bigamy law of Section 494 of the IPC, Soman said bigamy is a non-cognizable but bailable offence. “Violation of the triple talaq law should invite penalty and punishment accordingly and proportionately,” Soman said.

However, triple talaq victim Arshiya Ismail, who is the chief training officer in a Army College, said, “Marriage is a civil act but instant triple talaq should be criminal. If that does not happen, men will always find a way out.”

Ishtar Jehan, who is the crusader against instant triple talaq hailing from Bengal, also believes it should be treated as a civil matter.

Nazia Elahi Khan, Ishtar Jehan's lawyer said, “The punishment for triple talaq should be stricter, preferably as a civil matter because there are provisions. The culprit should be put behind bars at least for three years and the Bill should make sure instant triple talaq is punishable.”

“The Bill should lay down the procedure of divorce as per the talaq-e-ehsan method involving reconciliation and mediation between husband and wife over a period of at least 90 days. Besides, in case of divorce following this procedure, the wife should be provided financial support for herself and her children,” added Soman.

The Muslim women groups have been calling for a codified Muslim family law based on the Quran and compliant with the Constitutional provisions.

“This would enable Muslim women to get gender justice in family matters. The Muslim women must get legal parity just like Hindu women and Christian women through codified law,” added Soman.

Bebaak Collective, one of the women’s rights groups who favoured a law against triple talaq on December 21, 2017 spoke out against the criminalization of instant triple talaq. The Bill, in their opinion is a vicious ploy of the BJP government to criminalize Muslim men with the new law.

Formulated in the name of safeguarding women’s rights, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill fails in its primary mission. Activists of Bebaak Collective that was one of the interveners in the Supreme Court case, say, “If this law is passed, it will not only criminalize Muslim men but adversely affect Muslim women and children, whose survival will be at stake.”

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