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Criminalizing triple talaq ? A great step towards gender equality and justice for Muslim women
Since Independence there have been talks and discussions about women empowerment and gender equality; giving women equal opportunity in education, jobs and various other sectors. However, there has been no discussion, and not even a single debate in the Parliament of India on how Muslim women have been suffering due to triple talaq. This evil custom has not only ruined the lives of many Muslim women but has also engulfed the future of their children, especially of girls in complete darkness.

In terms of largest Muslim population in a country, India stands third (10.9% of world's Muslims) after Indonesia (12.7%) and Pakistan (11%), and is governed by Sharia Law, which has been in place since the time of British colonial rule. But even today, India's 90 per cent of Muslim women still face the threat of sudden and out-of-court divorce; which means immediate separation from their husband without being paid alimony. And this happens just with uttering of the word 'talaq' three times in succession.  

If we look at the whole world, there are 22 Muslim countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh, where triple talaq is not in practice. It has been termed as illegal in these countries. So, the question that arises is why can't we as the second largest country on the planet (in terms of population) and the world's largest democracy, abolish the practice of triple talaq?

It is not that voices haven't been raised earlier against this evil custom in our country, but those voices remained unheard by the earlier governments. Even the Muslim Clerics tried to suppress the voices of Muslim women as according to them it is against Islam.

The Muslim women in our country are among the poorest, educationally disenfranchised, and economically vulnerable. According to the 2011 census, out of the total Indian Muslim women, 13.5 per cent are married off before the age of 15 while 49 per cent get married at 14-19 years of age. Being married at such an early stage deprives them of even basic education. If such vulnerable women who are financially dependent on their husbands are thrown out of their husband's house by uttering talaq three times, think what kind of life they would be subjected to!

Furthermore, rubbing salt to their wounds, a majority of divorced Muslim women don't even receive alimony from their husbands. Such women are not in an immediate position to arrange for food, water or shelter for themselves and their children.  Therefore, in such a scenario, it becomes crucial to criminalize triple talaq, as it's the only way to protect Muslim women and instill a sense of fear among men of the Muslim community. This has also become a necessity as even after passing of the Supreme Court's order to term the practice of Triple Talaq unconstitutional there have been 248 such instances in our country.

The Central government in December 2018, in its report to the Parliament, had said that approximately 477 triple talaq cases had been reported since January 1, 2017, with most cases being reported from the state of Uttar Pradesh.

On July 30, 2019, the BJP-led NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi managed to pass the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019, which made instant triple talaq a criminal offence. This Bill replaced the 1986 Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, infamously associated with the Shah Bano Case.

It was the Modi government's sincere effort that led to the passage of this legislation in the Parliament. This was the government's third attempt which proved lucky. In the earlier two instances the government managed to get the bill passed in the Lok Sabha but couldn't take it through the Rajya Sabha due to lack of majority in the house.  Initially the government didn't plan to bring the bill, however, when it found that triple talaq is still being practiced even after two years of the Supreme Court's order, it planned to bring a concrete law which would give Muslim women justice.

Passing of the Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha was welcomed by the Muslim women who had filed petitions in the Supreme Court. It brought a wave of happiness among many Muslim women who have been living in poverty after being given triple talaq by their husbands.

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