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The Liberation of Muslim women

In the wake of the passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriages) Bill 2019, Governor of Goa, Mridula Sinha shares her thoughts on this victory

Mridula Sinha

Governor of Goa

July 30, 2019 proved to be a historical day for Muslim women of India with The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriages) Bill 2019 being passed by Rajya Sabha. The bill was previously passed by the Lower House in the previous Lok Sabha.

This issue has very deep roots in society. It is important to remember that it all began when Muslim women, who were suffering from instant talak (divorce), started talking about the injustice of it all. They realised that this instant talak was not proper but could not imagine any strict law to ban the cruel behaviour of their husbands. Even in close society of Muslim samaj, there was not a single man or woman to raise a voice against instant talak. When the women who had suffered started speaking against it, one or two males and females started condemning this practice which in fact was not in accordance with the religious book the Quran. In the Quran, the practice of talak has been defined very well. It takes three or four months to materialise. Meanwhile, several people from society interfere and ultimately most of the marriages do not fail. In fact, nobody from the Muslim community can say the exact time when instant talak was started.

When the affected women started speaking against the malpractices of instant talak in society, their voices were heard by people from other communities also. In the 80’s, people of other communities also started condemning these practices but the male-dominated society was mum. These women did not stop talking about this and some other people from Muslim community also started supporting their voice. We can say that gradually their voices were heard by the political party leaders also.

Meantime, the case of a Muslim woman, the Sah bano case came to light, when she was allowed maintenance from her ex-husband after three talaks by the court. But the Central Government run by Rajiv Gandhi decided that Muslim women should not enjoy the maintenance. The Opposition parties and society also opposed it vehemently. This episode drew the attention of society, political parties, and Muslim women towards the problems they were facing due to some of the practices in their society. The right to marry four times for a man was in practice but women had to bear the evil of instant three talak. Women had no right to the husband’s property. They could not adopt a child, etc. In those days, I was the president of the Mahila Morcha of BJP and working with Indian women. I felt that we cannot bring all women of India under one umbrella. There was a question which came to my mind – ‘Who is an Indian woman?’ Personal laws divided women from different religions – Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, their rights especially with regards to marriage were not equal. They were not ruled by one law. There is no one law for safeguarding the rights of all the Indian women. So I made a few questions and sent our important woman workers to 1000 houses. These questions included: Do you want the triple talak practice to continue? Do you feel that male members should be allowed four marriages? Do you want Muslim women to have the right to adopt children? Do you want equal division of husband’s property between husband and wife?

I was surprised to see that 99 per cent of Muslim ladies had answered in the negative. I organised one huge gathering/meeting of Muslim women in Delhi and Mumbai. Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressed the Delhi conference and Pramod Mahajan addressed the Mumbai conference. The participants of the conference were very enthusiastic to express their heart. It was understood in a nutshell that they were not satisfied with their marriage and property rules.

In that period Muslim women also formed their forums. They started speaking on channels and at seminars. Their voices were heard and supported by the sensible people of India. Even the generous Muslim men started supporting them. In the year 2014, Narendra Modiji’s government came to the Centre. The Prime Minister really felt the pitiful situation of the divorced women and he advised the law minister, Ravi Shanker Prasad to first go to the Supreme Court and then bring it in Parliament. The law minister followed his advice. The Supreme Court advised the Government to make an Act to remove this bad practice against women. In Lok Sabha, the Bill was passed in the previous term of government only. This term of government also brought the Bill in the first session of Lok Sabha and the Bill was passed. On the evening of July 30, the Bill was passed from the Rajya Sabha also. Now the President has to sign it to make the Bill an Act. We have seen the happiness of Muslim women on television screens. All the sympathisers whether men or women from different communities, are happy that their Muslim sisters will not have to suffer this instant talak. We all know that only in Goa, there is Uniform Civil Code. When the Portuguese came to India, the condition of Hindu women was not good. There were some bad practices in society for them also. But the Portuguese brought Civil Code of Goa which provided equal share of property to divorced women. At present Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sikh and other communities are living in Goa very peacefully. They have harmonious relations. In 2015, I went for a survey of the effects of Goa Civil Code on the women and society. I invited women from all the communities separately and asked some questions related to that Code. I found that women from all sectors were happy and have accepted Goa Civil Code with minor amendments. I came to the conclusion that due to the existence of Goa Civil Code, there is harmony in society. All are living happily with others.

On July 30, 2019, not only has the instant talak been crushed. It has made way for bringing the Uniform Civil Code throughout India in future. Formerly, people did not understand the meaning of Uniform Civil Code. They thought that the Hindu laws would be imposed on other communities. This is not the reality. Actually, the best of every personal law will be brought and the Uniform Civil Code should be made for the betterment of women of all sectors of society.

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