Triple Talaq: Thanks SC, But Wish it was Not a Manel Deciding Our Rights
The paucity of women judges is not unique. And the fact that the Supreme Court has only one female judge is not surprising.
In this file photo, a Muslim bride waits for the start of a mass marriage ceremony in Ahmedabad. (Photo: Reuters)
For those not in the know, a manel is a term given to a panel of speakers or participants that consists of men only. This practice has been red-flagged by many women who view this as an exercise in gender discrimination. After all how hard is it to find a deserving and competent woman to be included? If you want to, that is.
This brings us to the Supreme Court bench hearing the petitions in the Triple Talaq case. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J Khehar is hearing on seven petitions, including five separate writ petitions filed by Muslim women. The bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph, RF Nariman, UU Lalit and Abdul Nazeer, has also taken up the main matter on its own as a petition titled "Muslim Women's quest for equality". The members of the bench are from different religious communities including Sikh, Christian, Parsi, Hindu and Muslim.
Whether this religious balance was struck through design or chance can be up for debate. But considering the absence of a female on the bench, design does come to one's mind. Is religious balance more important than gender balance?
The mathematician Greg Martin, who has devised a statistical probability analysis, suggests that all-male line-ups don't "just happen", the odds of it being random are next to none.
Eminent lawyer Salman Khurshid was asked to assist the SC bench in this special summer hearing, surely a woman lawyer could also have been approached irrespective of her religion?
Shouldn't the empathy and sensitivity of a woman on the bench be valuable when judging on women's rights? This is a pertinent question as the Indian courts have a history of passing judgments to satisfy 'collective conscience'.
Why are we surprised when such patriarchal practices of instant triple talaq not only thrive but are supported by boys' clubs like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB)? To be fair they do have some token female members on their boards but most of them are pussyfooting around the issue or supporting patriarchal observations, if not adding fuel to fire. Any dissenting woman is of course denied membership as was the case with Rukhsana Nikhat Lari recently when she was ousted from AIMPLB for opposing instant triple talaq. The boys club loves making its own laws and then their own punishments that fit their comfort index.
So in the end, what we get to choose from is a religiously diversified manel and a boys' club with token females at AIMPLB. Surely in the year 2017 we can do better?
The SC has been sending out all the right signals till now, recognizing the importance of this issue by taking up the petition hearings during summer holidays. While we the Muslim women welcome this and support the law wholeheartedly, we just wish, we did not have a manel deciding on our rights.
Nazia Erum is a TEDx speaker and author of forthcoming book, 'Mothering a Muslim' by Juggernaut Books. Her views are personal and not that of News18.com. She can be reached on twitter at @nazia_e.
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