(This article was first published on 8 January, 2019 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives in light of the Triple Talaq Bill being passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, 30 July.)
There is no doubt that instant triple talaq is un-Quranic and unjust. Its criminalisation is not wrong either.
However, the provisions of the Triple Talaq Bill are not only unfair, they are illogical, and quite contrary to the very objective (of women empowerment) its proponents claim to espouse.
What the Bill States
The bill spells out a jail term of three years as punishment for pronouncing instant triple talaq to one’s wife. So far so good. The second of the four righteous Caliphs of Islam Hazrat Umar had decreed a punishment of lashes for anyone who pronounced three talaqs to his wife in one go.
However, the talaq was considered effective, and the wife no longer remained lawful upon the husband. It was an ijitihad of Khalifa Umar (RA) which he had done, keeping in mind the social, political and demographic conditions of his times. Later period Islamic imperialists did away with the punishment, while the validity of instant talaq remained unchanged.
The Triple Talaq Bill under consideration at the moment states that three talaqs pronounced at once will have no legal value.
It means that legally, no talaq shall take place, and the marriage will continue as before. It is this point that makes the bill unacceptable to the Muslim community to the extent that Muslim women have taken to the streets to protest against it.
Why the Bill is Absurd
To start with, it’s illogical and absurd to punish the husband for a crime that did not take place. In this, the bill makes a mockery of common sense as well as basic legislative principles.
Secondly the validity/invalidity of a marriage is a religious and social matter. Since the effectiveness of triple talaq has religious and social sanction, no amount of legislation can perhaps make a Muslim woman stay in a relationship with the man who has pronounced three talaqs to her.
Is it too hard to imagine the dilemma of a woman whose society and religious practice decree that she has been divorced, while the law is not ready to recognise her divorced status?
By all means, punish the erring husband. That’s the sunnah (tradition) of Chaliph Omar (RA) too. But if this bill manages its way through in its current form, it will punish the wife doubly. Conflict-torn areas like Kashmir and Northeast have “half widows”. The rest of the India shall have “half divorcees” oscillating helplessly between religion and the law of the land.
Will Triple Talaq Bill Dent Muslim Personal Law?
Thankfully instant triple talaq is the rarest form of divorce among Muslims. The anti- Muslim, anti-women regime has blown the issue of triple talaq out of proportion to serve their ulterior motives, while the Muslim Personal Law Board unwittingly assisted them by not sorting out the matter of triple talaq internally when there was time. Now of course, it’s too late.
A dent does not destroy the bastion but the first dent is nevertheless known for its significance. Only time will tell if the triple talaq bill proves to be that dent in the bastion of Muslim personal law.
(The author is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad. Her Twitter handle is @Kabab_eater. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)