On Wednesday last the Supreme Court declared an Islamic practice permitting men to instantly divorce their wives as unconstitutional. The decision came after decades of campaigning by women’s groups and victims in India.
The supreme court in Delhi had taken up the issue in response to a petition filed by seven victims and women’s groups. A majority of the bench declared that triple talaq was ‘not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality.
Zakia Soman, the co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), an activist group that was party to the legal battle termed the decision as a huge victory for India’s 90 million Muslim women.
The BMMA claims that a national survey conducted by it in 2015 found roughly 1 in 11 Muslim women were survivors of triple talaq, the vast majority receiving no alimony or compensation.
Notably, triple talaq has been criticised even among hardline Muslim schools and was already banned in Pakistan, Bangladesh and across much of the Islamic world.
It persisted in India because the country’s Muslim, Hindu and Christian communities are permitted to follow religious law in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.
The decision by the Supreme Court however, is being portrayed in a different manner, with intensions that seem visibly targeting a particular community by those who have no understanding of the great religion, Islam.
These intentions, though seemingly malafide are bound to get some reactive response as well if a well timed and well devised meaning is not made out of the court order.
To put things in better perspective we need to get deeper into the issues that are confronting the Indian society. Leaving aside, for the sake of argument, our religious identities.
A survey that can prove to be eye opener for all those who are trying to spread a bad word shows that the percentage of women staying in marriage is highest amongst Muslims (87.8%) compared to Hindus (86.2%), Christians (83.7%) and other religious minorities (85.8%).
Similarly, the percentage of widowed women is least amongst Muslims (11.1%) compared to Hindus (12.9%), Christians (14.6%) and other religious Minorities (13.3%). It is likely that the culture of widow remarriages provides a higher level of family protection to Muslim women compared to women from other religious communities.
The percentage of separated and abandoned women is also least amongst the Muslims (0.67%) compared to Hindus (0.69%), Christians (1.19%) and other religious Minorities (0.68%). The same census data suggests that the divorced women percentage is higher amongst the Muslims at 0.49% and Christians at 0.47% compared to other religious minorities (0.33%) and the Hindus, at 0.22%. The practice of getting a divorce amongst the Hindus is traditionally non-existent. Out of 340 million ever-married women 9.1 lakhs are divorced and amongst them 2.1 lakhs are Muslims.
The data reveals that Muslim women, even though, as claimed by a section are not getting a fair deal are much better placed than their counterparts following other religions. What is however, being made out of the court ruling is telling a different story.
A check needs to be put in place by the authorities so that no such motive is made to be transformed into yet another controversy.