Muslim law board advisory won’t curb triple talaq cases, say women’s rights groups
Many people, including a few members of the AIMPLB, believe the proposed advisory does not take ground realities into consideration.
An advisory proposed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) will not be enough to curb cases of instantaneous divorce among members of the community, women’s rights groups and religious experts have said.
During a Supreme Court hearing on the triple-talaq issue on Monday, the board submitted an affidavit stating that the advisory would be issued within a week. However, members of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) said the board’s advisory – which is addressed to the qazis (people who conduct the marriage) – does not take ground realities into consideration.
“The board’s advisory is not binding on any qazi. Additionally, the AIMPLB does not maintain a centralised database of qazis who are supposed to abide by its guidelines. In these circumstances, how do they expect qazis to listen to them?” asked Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of the BMMA, which is spearheading the campaign to end triple talaq.
The nikahnama – or the Islamic marriage contract – usually contains the names of the bride, groom, two witnesses and meher (the obligatory gift given by the man to his bride during the ceremony). All this is read aloud separately to the man and woman before their consent is taken.
Many women’s organisations, including the BMMA, say a nikahnama in this form ignores the marital rights of women within the Islamic framework.
A model nikahnama issued as a corrective measure by the All India Women Personal Law Board in 2008 had received a lukewarm response. The document included safeguards for women, including provisions to reject triple talaq and spur-of-a-moment divorces executed through phone calls or text messages.
“The model nikahnama did not find many takers because it spoke of women’s rights,” said Niaz.
The proposed advisory of the board contains two broad elements: First, the qazi performing the marriage will advise the groom against resorting to triple talaq and, second, he will advise the bride and groom to incorporate a condition to this effect in the nikahnama.
The board will publish the advisory on its website, and run an awareness campaign aimed at educating Muslim men on the objectionable nature of the practice.
Although the board’s word is not sacrosanct, it can act as an advisory body on Islamic practices. “The AIMPLB is invoking a Supreme Court judgment that recognises the existence of the Darul Qaza (an Islamic court) as an advisory body. Technically, they are right,” said Dr Hilal Ahmed, associate professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
However, even AIMPLB members are sceptical of the advisory’s ability to curb triple-talaq cases. Mufi Muhammad Mukarram Ahmad said penalising or jailing perpetrators of triple talaq would have worked better. “Implementing the advisory will be difficult. Qazis do not belong to one umbrella body,” he added.
A Faizur Rahman, secretary general of the Chennai-based Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought, called the advisory proposal a “face-saving move” by the AIMPLB. “The qazi may advise the groom to not pronounce instant divorce (talaq-e-bid’a) in haste, but such a warning will be ineffective because the board clearly says triple talaq is legally valid. Exhorting people against talaq-e-bid’a while upholding its legal validity make no sense,” he said, calling for “complete invalidation” of the practice.