Finally, the Bill relating to Muslim women for protection of their rights on marriage has had a safe passage in Lok Sabha. It should not be difficult for the Triple Talaq Bill to overcome Rajya Sabha obstacle, too, given the mood prevailing in the LS. While it is a welcome move in general, whether this Bill per se would provide any relief to the thus divorced women is the moot point. Triple Talaq is the practice under which a Muslim man can divorce his wife by simply uttering 'talaq' thrice and it is prevalent among India's Hanafi Islamic School of Law.

This certainly is not the practice among Muslims across the world, as many other Islamic schools of thought prefer deferring the divorce process over a period of three months. Including Pakistan, several Muslim countries have banned the triple talaq. While the Muslim women could rightly rejoice in the move to legislate against the practice, critics often wonder whether triple talaq and polygamy are the main issues facing the Muslim community which lies at the bottom of the economic and educational indicators in the country.

Activists uphold the ban citing the misuse of the instant divorce by men. Once the Bill becomes an Act, a husband who resorts to instant triple talaq can be jailed for up to three years and be fined. Instant triple talaq in any form – oral, written or electronic form – has been banned and will be a cognizable offence. The Bill also provides for a subsistence allowance of a harassed Muslim woman and her dependent children and the custodial rights of minor children.

The Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement in August this year calling instant triple talaq illegal and unconstitutional. According to 2011 Census, the divorce rate among Muslims was 0.56 per cent less than in the Hindu community, which stood at 0.76 per cent. In fact, the issue should have been resolved in favour of women long ago. But, those preferring to stick to the medieval laws and practices in the name of religious considerations would not allow it. Nor were they willing to reform themselves.

The minority community leaders have been accusing the government of a hidden agenda – of ushering in a Uniform Civil Code. Triple talaq or Talaq-e-Biddat has become a typical low-lying fruit. The biggest problem facing the community members is not just this divorce practice but illiteracy and lack of awareness when it comes to women's rights.

The BJP-led NDA Government will definitely be accused, by a section of the political class and religious leadership, of subverting the Muslim Personal Law. There is already a clamour for implementation of Arvind Kumar Goel panel recommendations on NRI marriages and divorces. It is good to note that the Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare, Maneka Gandhi, has positively responded to the Telangana BC Welfare Association’s demand for inclusion of criminality element against the NRI husbands maliciously divorcing Hindu women in foreign lands under foreign laws. Our society and its customs are loaded against women. It is time many more laws come into force to protect their rights.

Tags: Muslim women