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The Ministry of Minority Affairs announced that ‘Muslim Women Rights Day’ is observed on August 1 to celebrate the enactment of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act. Passed in 2019, the law classified giving instant divorce by saying ‘talaq’ thrice as a criminal offence. It has been two years since its enactment and many have questioned whether the law has made a difference.
Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, stated that cases of triple talaq have declined by 80% in the past two years and said that the law “strengthened the self-reliance, self-respect, and self-confidence” of women.
Meanwhile, Zakia Soman, founding member of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), pointed out that it is extremely hard to file FIRs in these cases since men deny having given talaq to their wives when questioned by police. In some cases, the accused is granted bail since the law also states that the wife and children must be maintained by him and he cannot do so while in jail. Sometimes the accused is granted anticipatory bail, preventing his arrest. A year ago, Naqvi said that there have been no arrests made in several cases since FIRs have been compounded (complainant or victim agreed to drop the charges against the accused).
This law stipulates three years in jail and makes the man liable to pay a fine. The practice of triple talaq is made a cognizable offence which means that the police can carry out an arrest without a warrant and many have expressed their belief that this makes it easier to incriminate Muslim men. Some Muslim women have also stated that they needn’t be saved by the BJP government.
BMMA’s co-founder, Noorjahan Safia Niaz said that the number of cases has dropped because the community has accepted the law. She explained how they would get around 35 cases a year but since the enforcement of this law, they get only 1-2.
Firdouse Qutb Wani, a Managing Partner at law firm LCZF, listed concerns that she has about the law and its implementation. She brought up that since instant divorce is illegal, the woman remains married to her husband. If the husband is found guilty, he is considered a criminal, adding bitterness to the marriage. Wani questions how that is good for the woman. She also said that harsher crimes have a lesser penalty and believes that the law is an effort to marginalize the community further. Wani also explained that the law allows not just the woman, but also any person related to her to register a complaint. It also leaves little room for conversation before declaring the man a criminal. This has led to the law being misused either by the wife herself or by a third party in some instances.
Zakia Soman discussed how triple talaq is widespread due to deeply ingrained patriarchy and lack of awareness about real Islam in the community. She explains that while she and many others have a strict stance against triple talaq, they do not want someone to stay with their spouse forcefully, they are simply seeking a fair deal for the woman. Many remain sceptical about the law itself but activists agree that making women aware of their rights and destigmatizing women seeking justice is important.
This article has been written by Pravallika Manju for The Paradigm
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