A fresh Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad seeking criminalisation of Triple Talaq after the earlier one lapsed in the last session of the 16th Lok Sabha. While BJP-NDA led central government has a majority in the Lok Sabha, the tabling of the bill saw huge protests from the opposition party members. A total of 186 members supported the bill and 74 members opposed it including Congress’s Shashi Tharoor and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
The opposing members of the parliament don’t want the bill to be proposed before wider consultation involving parties from the other side of the treasury bench. In a voice vote called for by the speaker of Lok Sabha Om Birla, he announced that the bill can be introduced in the Lok Sabha because of the majority of votes favouring it.
Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Tharoor termed the bill a “textbook example of class legislation” for discriminating against Muslims. He said that he advocates the ban on triple talaq but opposes the criminalisation of a “void act.” He added that abandonment of women isn’t unique to the Muslim community so why not make it into a universal act providing protection to all the women of India.
On the other hand, Owaisi pointed out that the bill puts the burden of proof on women while her husband would be serving a jail term. He took a dig on the government and said why it is so concerned about the safety of Muslim women and opposes the entry of Hindu women in the Sabarimala temple case?
“If a man gets arrested, how will he give allowance from jail? Govt says if a Muslim man commits this crime the marriage will remain intact and he’ll be jailed for three years if punished by the court. He’ll be jailed for three yrs but marriage will be intact! What law is Mr Modi forming?” said Owaisi.
Countering opposition, Law Minister Prasad said, “This is not a question of religion but about justice to women.”
He justified the proposition of the bill by referring to cases of Triple Talaq reported in the country after the Supreme Court judgment banned Triple Talaq practice. Prasad said more than 200 cases were reported.
“This is a question of dignity of women and we are committed to (safeguard) it,” he said. He said the job of Parliament was to legislate and it was up to courts to interpret the law.
“If a man gets arrested, how will he give allowance from jail? Govt says if a Muslim man commits this crime the marriage will remain intact and he’ll be jailed for three years if punished by the court. He’ll be jailed for three yrs but marriage will be intact! What law is Mr Modi forming?”
While the law specifically affects women, it is quite surprising to note that not a single woman in the parliament spoke up about the bill. Despite the fact that we have the highest number of women in the Lok Sabha this time, the ignorance of women MPs by not speaking up on the Triple Talaq bill is odd, to say the least.
The bill bans the tradition of Triple Talaq in the Muslim community wherein earlier according to their personal law, husbands were allowed to divorce their wives just by uttering the word Talaq thrice or by emailing or sending messages over WhatsApp to them.
Under the proposed law, instant Triple Talaq will penalise a man with a jail term of three years. After much criticism, the bill was made compoundable in its previous amendment which means that the case can be withdrawn if the man and his estranged wife reach a compromise and that only the wife and her close relatives can file an FIR, ruling out the law’s misuse. These amendments were cleared by the cabinet in August 2018.
Picture credit: Hindustan Times