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Friday, 28 August 2015 21:02

Muslim Indian Women Seek Family Equality

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India has long favored men when it comes to marriage laws and traditional family values for its Muslim population. That may be changing. A recent study by a women’s rights organization of India’s Muslim women found that over 90 percent of them favored ending the “triple talaq” ritualized divorce and seek to ban polygamy through civil family law in the nation.

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) published the survey to call attention to what they view as “serious inequities” in Muslim personal law governing family issues in India. This includes an immediate ban on child marriages. “Muslim women in India are asking for definitive Muslim laws that makes polygamy, unilateral divorce, unilateral child custody resolutions and child marriages a criminal matter under the law.”
“The survey points out that Muslim women are aware of their legal rights and are determined to achieve justice in family issues.” The numbers of women who demand reform of Muslim personal law as it is allowed and practiced in India today is “overwhelming,” BMMA said in a statement.
“The women seek a codified law based on a framework derived from the Koran, to cover the issues of marriage, divorce procedures, polygamy and the support and custody for children.”
Muslims are the largest religious minority in India and comprise 13.4 percent of the nation’s 1.2 billion people, yet the study is supported by government date that well illustrates they are also one of the most excluded and marginalized communities.
Common indicators used to measure social success show Muslim women rank lower than the national average. Literacy, for example, is 50 percent for Muslim women while the general population is over 67 percent for Muslim men. The national average for all women is 53 percent according to the report.
Merely one in 100 Muslim women graduate compared to 37 percent of all Indian women. The BMMA study said there is an “urgent need” to improve “availability to healthcare, education and employment opportunities,” but said “legal marginalization” may be the most pressing need as it affects Muslim women in the home and in places where society would rather not take a hard look.
Polygamy is especially corrosive to family life. Of the 4,710 Muslim married women who were interviewed for the study, over 91 percent of them said “a Muslim man should not be allowed to have another wife during the first marriage.”
The women also deplored the use of informal divorce procedures that were unilateral decision made by the husband without input from the Muslim wife. To address this matter, 88 percent of the women surveyed wanted to establish the “talaq-e-ashan” method to be used as a legalized practice. This procedure insures that any divorce is spread out over 90 days and requires negotiation before any divorce is granted.
Talaq-e-ashan” would be in sharp contrast to the current practice favored by Muslim men. Called the “triple talaq” it only requires a Muslim husband to repeat the word “talaq” three times to finalize a divorce. Women in the survey pointed out the unfairness of this practice and said some of them were “divorced orally, by letters and some over the phone or SMS” and that 78 percent of them didn’t have any say in the matter.
The report was made to “bring out into the open a major injustice faced by Muslim women in India through decades of enduring the uncertainty of oral unilateral divorce or triple talaq.”

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