DIVORCED FROM REALITY

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DIVORCED FROM REALITY

Sunday, 30 December 2018 | Nida Khan

DIVORCED FROM REALITY

i was visiting my family in Bareilly when I came to know that my husband was planning to get married for the second time. I immediately went to meet this girl’s parents and told them the entire story — how he was already married to me. My husband told me that he had divorced me and put in papers — the Talaq Nama. The court rejected this application. So I am lawfully his wife. But he insists he is not married to me and gives me a maintenance amount of `12,000 every month.

If we go with the Shariat Law, we are divorced. There are other Sections under which I have filed a complaint. Herein lies the problem. The court doesn’t accept this divorce. How is this even possible? A crime has been committed but the man is not punished for it. Where is the justice for the woman? Here is a man who has divorced the woman but the law doesn’t accept it since there is no paperwork to prove if the woman is married to the man or not. This is the loophole that men are taking advantage of. When I took the pictures of the paper to ulema, he told me that he doesn’t need to utter the words. If, in his mind, he has divorced the woman, she stands divorced.

The problem before Triple Talaq was considered an offence, the status of the woman was not clear — the court doesn’t accept this kind of divorce, the Shariat Law accepts it. Second, the minute the woman is divorced, a big question that she needs an answer to is how she will fend for herself.

Since Triple Talaq has been declared an offence, I have not heard of any woman who has been divorced. Earlier, I would hear of at least two cases of Triple Talaq every month. It was as if there was a trend. How else would you explain situations where the man divorced the woman because there was less salt in a dish or she had not done some household chore?

All this stems from the mentality that men have. As long as the woman does what the man wants, they are happy but if she tries to assert her rights in the relationship, he wants to get rid of her. So much so that he would even call the police to throw the woman out of the house on the grounds that since she had been divorced and was no longer welcome to live in his house. The police had no option but to take the woman back to her parental home.

The foremost problem facing these women is how to explain to the society why she was a divorcee to begin with. Second, if the man has not agreed to keep the children, the big question facing her is how to earn so that she can educate them. Third, if the woman is young, she has a chance to get married again. But who is going to marry a 50-year-old?

As a social activist, my job is to first understand what the woman wants. Does she want revenge? Does she need a lawyer? Does she need funds? However, I always tell these women that the first step is to file a case for maintenance in the fast track court which usually takes less than a year. Once this is taken care of, then comes dealing with other issues.

The one positive thing for women is that they are secure. They no longer live in constant fear. There is fear for men too. They are wary for uttering the words as of now. But there is an urgent need to ensure that action is taken against the man who would utter the words. Men will have to be punished if they use Triple Talaq as an easy tool to divorce.

If the divorce is mutual, there is no problem. But if a woman is wrongfully divorced, the man has to be punished. Otherwise, the Ordinance will become weak and men will go back to doing whatever pleases them. If the interest of the Muslim women has to be looked at, this can’t be allowed to happen.

Most women so divorced belong to low-income families who have had little or no education at all. These women have no clue about how to fend for themselves. They need financial security which, for them comes from a marriage. They don’t even know about their most basic rights — that they need to get their marriage registered as required by law. There is a total lack of awareness.

Take the case of this woman who came to me for help. Her husband used Triple Talaq to divorce her. The woman was young and married again. Four years later, the first husband found out that the woman was leading a happy and comfortable life. He came and claimed her as his wife. Since there was no paperwork to prove that he had divorced her, the woman had no option but to return to her first husband.

It is all about the man. What about the rights of the woman? Where is her consent here? Where is the security for her?

Before Triple Talaq was criminalised, there was no marriage security for the woman. There was a sword always hanging over her head. She didn’t know if she would continue to stay married once the husband came home in the evening. There have been cases where the man has gone to work in the morning and returned in the evening only to divorce her.

Take this example. A woman was sleeping and her husband was watching her sleep and a thought came to him— what if I divorced her? The minute she woman opens her eyes, she found herself to divorced and thrown out of the house. The ordinance will prevent such frivolous acts from now on.

The Amends

  •  According to the new amendment, a crime of triple talaq (FIR) will be cognizable only if the victim or her blood relatives or someone associated with the marriage files the complaint. A complaint filed by an agency or outside entity will not be cognizable. In the earlier version, any person could have initiated criminal proceedings against a Muslim man, who pronounces instant triple talaq on his wife.
  •   As per the second amendment, the crime remains non-bailable but a magistrate can grant bail after hearing the victim. Provision of bail was one of the demands of the opposition parties.

The Trivialities

  • A UP-based Muslim man divorced his wife orally after she asked for `20 to give to the couple's two daughters.
  • In January this year, a Haryana man divorced his wife after she refused to give him a packet of beedis. When she insisted she would not give it to him, he beat her up, kicked her out and gave her oral, instant talaq.
  • A newly-wed husband pronounced triple talaq just two hours after his nikah in UP's Baghpat village last year just because he didn't receive a car in dowry as demanded.
  • A Saudi Arabian man divorced his wife though an advertisement in an Urdu daily. She came to know about it only when someone brought the paper to show her what had happened.
  • In January this year, 22-year-old Shahjahanpur resident Afrin was scrolling down her Facebook timeline when a post hit her. It was from her husband and said : Talaq, talaq, talaq. This was duly followed by the same message on her phone.
  • Talaq has happened over phone, text and email as well. Two women living in Hyderabad were divorced over WhatsApp by their respective husbands. In 2015, an NRI man from Kerala sent his wife a Triple Talaq message on WhatsApp from Dubai hardly 10 days after the wedding.

Big screen splash

Road to Sangam director Amit Rai is working on a neo-noir thriller Mansuba which will explore the subject of how victims of Triple Talaq become prey to social anarchy. The film, according to the director, underlines the weakening social fabric of the nation. It also presents a perfected version of the truth as it gets venomously distorted, perversely manipulated and then suddenly turned over on its head.

Figuratively

  • The Supreme Court Bench heard seven petitions filed by Muslim women challenging the 1,400-year-old practice, including by one who was divorced on WhatsApp.
  • In India, for every divorced Muslim man, there are four divorced Muslim women, according to an analysis of the 2011 Census data.
  • The number of divorced Muslim women in 2011 touched almost half a million, a 40% increase as compared to 2001.
  • Muslim women in India who cross the age of 25, are more likely to be divorced by their husbands. Census figures show that the number of divorced Muslim women between the ages of 10 to 25 was just about 70,000 as compared to 0.22 million between 25 and 39 age.
  • A survey by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan revealed that 95 per cent divorced women received no maintenance from their husbands.
  • Oral divorce has been the easiest and most common method of taking a divorce among Muslims. Out of all divorced women, 65.9 per cent were divorced orally.

The Case

Shayara Bano, the 35-year-old native of Uttarakhand, is the face of the battle against the discriminatory talaq practice. The mother of two endured physical and mental agony for over 10 years and was made to undergo as many as six abortions by her husband. Her battle against triple talaq was spurred by her own experience.

Married in April 2001 to the Allahabad-based property dealer Rizwan Ahmed, she endured domestic violence and physical torture at the hands of her husband and in-laws, who allegedly demanded additional dowry and a car from her parents which her father was unable to afford.

She was often beaten up and kept hungry in a closed room for days. The final cut came in October 2015, when her husband sent her a divorce note by speed post. The letter contained a pronouncement of instant Triple Talaq. The custody of her two children, 11 and 13, was kept by the husband. When something so wrong happened, she thought that there must be a law to prevent this.

 (The writer is Social activist and victim of Triple Talaq)

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