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Demand to End Triple Talaq a Result of Muslim Women’s Empowerment

Muslim women have discovered their true potential and are likely to press more aggressively for gender parity.

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Opinion
4 min read
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(In a landmark judgement, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, on 22 August, declared the practice of Triple Talaq unconstitutional. A five-judge bench of Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Fali Norman, Uday Umesh Lalit and Abdul Nazeer struck down the practice on the grounds that it goes against the Shariat and the basic tenets of the Quran. In light of the judgement, The Quint is reposting this article that examines how the fight against Triple Talaq became a rallying point for women’s rights.)

It was heartening to see some very articulate Muslim women forcefully arguing their case against the perpetuation of triple talaq. While participating in a television debate a few months ago, they seemed very confident while facing the maulvis.

As the women kept harping on the theme of gender justice, so-called interpreters of the Shariat stuck to their tried and hitherto tested line of not allowing others to make changes in Muslim personal laws. The sense we got after watching the debate was that days of triple talaq are numbered as the voice from within the community is getting louder.

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Public Opinion With Muslim Women

What explains this new assertion of Muslim women? The powerful force of public opinion, not only from within the community but also from outside, is definitely on their side. A survey conducted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) in 2010 found that 88 percent of Muslim women wanted a ban on the practice of triple talaq (see infograph below).



Muslim women have discovered their true potential and are likely to press more aggressively for gender parity.
A survey in 2010 found that 88 percent of Muslim women wanted a ban on the practice of triple talaq. (Photo: iStock)

The survey was conducted in 10 states and nearly 5,000 Muslim women were approached. This was perhaps the first such attempt on such a scale to get the views of those who really matter in this whole debate on triple talaq.

The BMMA is one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court and a five-judge bench has begun a day-to-day hearing on whether giving divorce by using the word talaq thrice is fundamental to religion or not.

But what has lent more weight to the growing assertion of Muslim women is the slow and steady process of economic empowerment.

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More Muslim Women Working Now

We know that enrolment rates of Muslim girls in higher education is lower than the averages for other communities. It is a fact that few Muslim women enter the job market and fewer still get meaningful jobs. There is no denying that Muslim women, on an average, have to spend more time on child rearing than their counterparts from other communities because of differential fertility rates. But all these are changing rather rapidly.

Let us begin with the most dramatic change that has taken place in the last few years. The declining participation of all women in the jobs market in the last three decades has been well-documented.

What has not received the kind of attention it deserves is the rising participation of Muslim women in non-farm jobs since 2004.

The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data shows that work participation rates of Muslim women in non-farm jobs in rural areas rose from 11 percent to 14 percent between 2004-05 to 2011-12 (see infograph below). The three percentage points rise in case of Muslim women is way ahead of the national average of 0.76 percent.

While there is no comparable data for urban women, it is very likely that the same trend, albeit with a marginal variation, would have played out there as well. What it essentially means is that more Muslim women are entering the job market now than what was the case a few years ago.

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Fertility Rates Have Dropped Sharply

Growing participation of women in the workforce has coincided with dramatic changes in the enrolment rates for Muslim girls in schools. According to an article in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), “the positive development is that share of Muslim girls in enrolment increased to 49 percent at the primary level and 51.48 percent at the upper primary levels during 2012-13.” The infograph below illustrates this.

That is to say that at the upper primary level, Muslim girls outnumber boys in schools.

Yet another noticeable trend is the growing adoption of modern contraceptive methods by Muslim women. Government data shows that Muslims have been most receptive when it comes to the use of contraception since 1993. While the rise in adoption of contraceptive methods between National Family Health Survey I and III was 34 percent among Hindus, among Muslims it was 63 percent.

As a result (and contributed by other factors also), there has been a steep fall in fertility rates of Muslims. While the average size of a family in the country as a whole fell by 5.3 percent in the last decade, that of an average Muslim family declined by more than 11 percent.

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In the decade gone by (2001-2011), while the growth rate among Muslims dropped by nearly 5 percentage points, that of Hindus fell by 3 percentage points.

Even in the previous decade of 1991-2001, the average annual growth of the Hindu population fell by 23 basis points compared to the previous decade, while the decline among Muslims was higher at 27 basis points.

These data sets suggest that Muslim women have discovered their true potential and are likely to press even more aggressively for gender parity at home and outside.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:   Supreme Court   Triple Talaq   BMMA 

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