Shayara Bano would have had a tight night sleep yesterday. After all, the battle which she started alone in October 2016 finally ended in her favour. When she started the battle, she faced misery just like several other women when her husband gave her an instantaneous divorce after 15 years of their marriage. She chose not to keep quiet about the 1400-year-old law that Muslim men have been abiding by. She went on to challenge the very basis of the law.
Obviously, her husband opposed her plea on the grounds that they were governed by the Muslim Personal Law and triple talaq and various other practices like polygamy and nikah halala are sanctified provisions under Muslim Personal Law.
When the news started floating about Shayara’s petition, it made people actually think about this particular law. The ‘divine’ institution of marriage could come to an end by just uttering the word ‘talaq’ three times? Was it fair on these women?
And then our PM decided to fight for the right cause. In November, Modi visited Uttar Pradesh and presented his views on the issue of Triple talaq. He made people believe that “an even hand would be applied to all India’s panoply of faith, each one brought into accord with a secular standard of gender parity”.
Extending PM’s position, an affidavit was presented in January this year by the Centre which stated, “Gender equality and dignity of women are non-negotiable, overarching constitutional values can brook no compromise. These rights are necessary for letter and in spirit to realize aspirations of every individual woman.” This came as a big relief for Bano and the other seven petitioners that voiced their opinions on the same practice.
In February, the Bharatiya Janata Party chose to support the Muslim women. This happened just before the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and hence was seen as vote bank politics by the Centre.
Then finally there was some action in the Supreme Court. Many hearings were done. In one of such hearings in June, AIMPLB said that Muslim women should not access the courts because they are sites of tedious proceedings and long-drawn legal battles and delays. It is absolutely baffling.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) made the preposterous contention that if triple talaq was banned, the Muslim men would be forced to kill or burn their wives. The problem lies within. Even when so much time has passed, there are some orthodox sections of the society that fail to realize that women aren’t objects they can ‘burn’ so easily.
Finally, after what seemed like a never ending battle, we witnessed a historic moment yesterday when the extremely prevalent practice of Triple Talaq was considered ‘illegal’ and ‘void’ by the Supreme Court. The issue wasn’t just about the Muslim women, but it definitely was a gender issue as a whole.
It is a vital step that the court has taken. It has not only liberated the Muslim women but has given hope to all the women of the country. It has given them the feeling of pride. Truly a game-changer, this decision, if implemented properly can the change the dynamics of our society. The Muslim women can now refuse to accept this law and seek protection from the authorities.
Bebaak founder Hasina Khan, who has been involved in the Muslim women’s rights movement since the 1990s, said “From the time of the Shah Bano judgment (1985), Muslim women have always been told: `Change can come only when the community is ready to accept it.’ Who makes up this `community? Only men?”
Shayara Bano case has proved to be a catalyst to reform the Muslim Personal Law in India. It has also proved to be a major blow for gender equality and justice. It is not only a victory for the underprivileged Muslim women over the patriarchal orthodoxy of the Muslim clerics, but a push for all the women to voice their opinions and fight for their rights.
Along with Shayara Bano, Israt Jahan from Howrah, Gulshan Parween from Rampur, Aafreen Rehman, Atiya Sabri and the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan have played a major role in the battle.
Even though it is a major victory, some women are of the opinion that it will be a victory in its true sense when the law comes into force. “The court has given a direction to the government to frame a law. We have won half the battle. We will be victorious in the true sense only once the law is framed so as to make this practice punishable” said Faiz, the President of Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh.
After battling with threats from the community, attacks by clerics and the glare of national media, Bano has finally achieved a milestone. She said. “My 11-year-old daughter will not have to face such regressive practices when she grows up. No Muslim women will have to go through the harassment that I suffered. It is a historic day for Muslim women.”
There is no legal, moral, cultural or even religious justification behind continuing to let a few patriarchs of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and vested political dispensations deny the fundamental rights of Muslim women.