Triple Talaq is Gone, But What About These Misogynistic Practices?
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While women’s rights groups across India celebrated the Supreme Court's triple talaq judgment as a major victory, it was not the only legal fight that they are fighting.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a historic verdict, invalidating the Islamic practice of instant Triple Talaq, by which Muslim men can divorce their wives verbally. While women’s rights groups across India celebrated this judgment as a major victory, it was not the only legal fight that they are fighting. Here are some other misogynistic traditions and laws that women’s groups would like to see struck down.
Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code defines rape as a crime and section 376 lays out the punishment for it. However, there is one notable exception to rape – sexual intercourse between a man and a woman cannot be considered rape if the two are married and if the woman is over 15 years of age. This, many believe, is a gaping flaw in the law since according to one study women are 40 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by their husbands rather than strangers. According to the study, 94% of the rapes in India are committed by people known to the woman. In 2015, a woman approached the Supreme Court claiming she had been raped and abused by her husband. Her petition was rejected by the apex court on the grounds that law can’t be changed on the basis of one person’s personal experiences.
In 1860, the Indian Penal Code prohibited polygamy among Christians. In 1955, the Hindu Marriage Act did so for Hindus, except Hindus in the state of Goa, where polygamy continues to be legal. Muslim men, however, have the right to marry four women. However, women are not accorded the same rights in any community. Under the Hindu Marriage Act, if a man marries a second woman, she may be considered a “mistress” but not a wife. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman in a live-in relationship may be considered a “wife”, unless it can be proven otherwise. In October 2015, the SC had said that it was “considering banning” polygamy.
Nikah Halala is a practice which states that if a Muslim divorcee has to remarry her husband, she must first marry another man, consummate the second marriage and then either get her new husband to divorce her or wait for him to die. In April 2017, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) came out with a Code of Conduct, which said that “a man can rejoin with his wife in three months after single talaq and can remarry after three months without the woman having to go through nikah halala”.
According to one estimate, women earn 24.81% less money than their male counterparts for similar work. The state with the lowest wage gap is Uttarakhand with 9% while Bihar is the worst off with a 63% wage disparity between men and women. In 1976, India passed the Equal Remuneration Act, which gave women the freedom to demand equal pay and also demand parity in recruitment promotions and transfers. However, the law does not apply to a situation where “a woman is attempting to comply with the requirements of laws giving women special treatment” and “is being accorded special treatment on account of the birth of a child, or the terms and conditions relating to retirement, marriage or death”.
One of India’s oldest traditions is that of child marriages and child brides. According to some accounts, this practice dates back over a thousand years. The first law to restrict child marriage was brought back in 1922. Any man above the age of 18, who enters into a marriage with a minor, can be punished. The legal age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men. While the practice is illegal, it persists in many corners of India. Moreover, the law does not automatically annul child marriages that have taken place anyway. Both boys and girls, who are forced into child marriages, have the option of annulling their child marriage till after two years of reaching adulthood. India’s law on child marriage further complicates anti-rape laws too. While the age of consent for women is 16, forced sexual intercourse between a man and his wife (marital rape) is not considered rape if the wife is above the age of 15.