The Union Cabinet cleared the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 punishing offenders of instant divorce in Islamic culture on Wednesday. This will allow the bill to be presented in the upcoming session of Parliament.

“‘SabkaSaath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ has been the pivot of NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the Centre said in a statement, adding that the government had fulfilled one of its promises, The Hindu reported.

“The Bill would ensure gender equality and gender justice to Muslim women. It would also help in protecting the rights of married Muslim women and prevent divorce by the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ by their husbands. The Bill will be introduced in the forthcoming session of the Parliament,” the Centre said.

The Bill will replace the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Second Ordinance, 2019 after it is passed and would allow punitive measures against the practice of talaq-e-biddat, or instant triple talaq.

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In the Muslim tradition of Triple Talaq, the husband is allowed to divorce his wife by merely pronouncing the word Talaq thrice. Modern times have led husbands to even divorce their wives through email, WhatsApp and what not. This tradition had left wives with no option but to accept their broken marriage without any allowance or maintenance from their husbands. It affected several Muslim women until 2017 when the Supreme Court banned this practice. However, Muslim men continued to divorce their women through Triple Talaq despite the fact that the apex court ordered that it is unconstitutional to do so.

The Union Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, in PM Modi’s first term introduced the bill on January 1, 2018, which was passed in the Lok Sabha in the same year but it lapsed because of the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha and because it couldn’t be tabled in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill allows imprisonment up to three years in jail and a fine and payment of subsistence allowance to married Muslim women and dependent children.

The Bill would ensure gender equality and gender justice to Muslim women. It would also help in protecting the rights of married Muslim women and prevent divorce by the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ by their husbands. The Bill will be introduced in the forthcoming session of the Parliament

In December last year, the Lok Sabha passed the bill after opposition parties staged a walkout from the meeting. The controversies surrounding the bill have not mellowed down since its inception. The critiques of the bill condemn the fact that it makes the offense a non-bailable one and moreover criminalises it while it is a civil offense. The Congress, the AIADMK, the Samajwadi Party who comprised the opposition in the Lok Sabha demanded that the bill goes through a ‘joint select committee’, staged a walkout before the voting began.

Law Minister Prasad had countered the opposition by saying that “all reservations raised by the opposition were considered for the Bill,” and that “this bill is not against any community or religion… This bill is for humanity and justice.”

The amendments in the bill made at that time were that it became compoundable, 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.

Picture credit- Hindustan Times

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