Triple Talaq and UCC: Treading the Devious Path

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Religion is easy, and no one overburdens himself in his religion but he will be unable to continue in that way…” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (39) and Muslim (2816).

Yes, we have overburdened ourselves; overburdened with fallacious and at times nefarious pragmatism. Overburdened with trying to put up with religious chauvinism disguised under the pretext of fabricated social and familial accords. Overburdened with trying to prove an artificial identity by ingenuous and infantile demeanors devoid of logic or reasoning. Finally, yes, we do have a problem with Talaq (single or triple, doesn’t matter) for Muslim Indians and it is getting difficult to continue in this way.

As per Census 2011 data, which has been clamorously cited recently over the Triple Talaq and Uniform Civil Code row, points to the fact that of the total divorced Muslims, 79% are women and 21% are men. This figure has been vehemently cited to influence communal demeanor against Triple Talaq (or the ease of divorcing women) among Muslims. An apparent tunnel vision view of the statistics supports the common verdict against Triple Talaq and the ease of divorcing among Muslims. We shall come to this fact later. However, let’s first reflect on a few other statistics.

As per IndiaSpend analysis, “among total divorced Indian women, 68% are Hindu and 23.3% Muslims, according to Census 2011 data on the marital status of Indians”. It is interesting that Triple Talaq conundrum has come into criticism in spite of this figure favoring the Muslims. The fact is that Hindus account for 80% of the total population of India, while Muslims account for roughly around 14.2% - which means total population of Hindus are roughly 5.6 times that of Muslims. This implies that if we consider ease of divorce and other variables as static parameters, the percentage of divorced Hindu women should also be 5.6 times that of percentage of divorced Muslim women. This; unfortunately, is not the case – the percentage of divorced Hindu women stands at only 2.9 times (68% divided by 23.3%) that of Muslim women. Consequently, we may conclude at this juncture that the rate of divorce for Muslim women is higher than Hindu women. Let’s keep the discussion on the reasons for this higher rate aside for some time and analyze some other statistics.

Another interesting percentage to note is the percentage of deserted women – women separated from their partners without a formal divorce. The incidence of deserted women is 66.3% in Hindus and a whopping 75% in Muslims. The big question that we now need to address is – why is the percentage of deserted women so high among Muslim Indians? If we were to concur with the argument that the percentage of divorce is higher among Muslim women largely because of the ease of divorce or the provision of single or Triple Talaq in Islamic shariah, logical insight  demands that the percentage of deserted women should be much lower. The question that haunts at the brink of this statistical antithesis is – what stops these men from according a formal divorce instead of deserting their wives? The answer may not be very comfortable for many. Interestingly, in spite of its alacrity and gravity, this aspect of the divorce statistics has not been underlined by any Muslim or nongovernmental organization.

Coming to the statistics of the gender ratio of divorced Muslim Indians (cited in the opening paragraph), which states that of the total divorced Muslims, 79% are women and 21% are men. IndiaSpend argues that “…the gender imbalance in the numbers implies that more men than women are remarrying. “If there are 100 divorced couples, it should show a 50:50 sex-ratio. The skewed ratio plainly shows that after divorce, not only is it easier for men to remarry but also that they show a greater need or want to remarry”. This brings us to the second big question – in spite of believing in a religion that encourages remarrying, why is it difficult for Muslim women to remarry? The answer, once again, is not comfortable. Equally disturbing is the fact that this incidence of difficulty in remarrying Muslim women has been precariously left attenuated by Muslim and nongovernmental organizations.

When the National Law Commission came out with its questionnaire to ascertain public opinion on Uniform Civil Code (UCC), we Muslim Indians went berserk with social media campaigns against this exercise. Muslim organizations like All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) not only criticized this exercise, but went to the extent of actually boycotting it. First Post denounced this move of the AIMPLB as “a ploy to maintain hegemony…” The article states that “Clearly, it is a political ploy of the AIMPLB to maintain its monopoly over the Muslim affairs in India.” Personally, I have hitherto always held AIMPLB in high esteem. However, the questions raised by this article, and substantiated by the statistical figures exhibited earlier in this article have a deleterious bearing on this stature. The role of AIMPLB has been found to be ludicrous and farcical in most of these instances, quite unbecoming of a body like AIMPLB.

To substantiate this impact, let’s examine the reasoning given by AIMPLB in its recent affidavit to the Supreme Court justifying polygamy and Triple Talaq. It would not be an understatement that these cited reasons are not only illogical but also amateur and childish. For instance, AIMPLB has stated in the affidavit that "polygamy is a blessing, not a curse for women", and that if “polygamy was not available to a husband, then he may divorce his existing wife or indulge in illicit affairs.” It would do good to recall that divorce rate among Muslim women has already been proven to be higher than women of other religious affiliations. The provision of polygamy as per Islamic shariah (it’s polygyny in reality, and not polygamy), unfortunately, has not been able to donate much to downsize this ominous ratio.

AIMPLB further stated in the affidavit “If there develops serious discord between the couple, and the husband does not at all want to live with her, legal compulsions of time-consuming separation proceedings and expenses may deter him from taking the legal course. In such instances, he may resort to illegal, criminal ways of murdering or burning her alive.” AIMPLB would do well to recall once again that the percentage of women being deserted without divorce is also highest among Muslim women – and this blatantly and callously goes against the AIMPLB argument. To put it in the words of AIMPLB, Muslim men who do not at all want to live with the legal compulsions of separation stop just short of murdering – and resort to deserting their wives…

No wonder these incongruous and futile arguments of AIMPLB have been hijacked by the media. To the extent that Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi claims in his First Post article that AIMPLB brutally stinks of male hegemony. This is the precise inference that we are compelled to draw, not just for AIMPLB but for the Muslim Indian populace as a whole. Single or Triple Talaq, polygamy (or polygyny) may well be in the betterment of the Muslim women, and I may just not be competent enough to engage in any theological discussion on these aspects. However, what I ardently know is that the characteristic male hegemony of the Muslim Indians has indisputably failed us in proving this contention. The uncomfortable questions that were raised earlier need to be answered, but neither the AIMPLB nor the male chauvinist Muslim Indian populace seems to be in any disposition to address them. Would it be too simplistic to assume that male dominance is the primary reason for the high rate of Muslim women being divorced and deserted outside divorce? Would it be superstitious to assume that it is male dominance that makes remarriage of divorced Muslim women abstruse and difficult? If not for this male chauvinism, what else explains better why out of the total divorced Muslims, 79% are women and only 21% are men? Given these missives, it exceedingly stands out that male chauvinism is at the helm of affairs, while Triple Talaq and Uniform Civil Code are unobtrusively being reduced to political scapegoats.

Islam as a way of life stands for equitable justice, which goes far beyond the concept of gender equality. Like many other tenets of Islam, the ease of divorce under the shriah was meant for the same equitable justice, but has been hijacked by the same male supremacy in the name of gender equality. What’s even disquieting is that organizations with vested interests (some of these claim to be Muslim organizations!) are now politicizing the hijacked hypothesis to further impose another dissonant theory fraught with male chauvinism in the name of gender equality. That the concept of gender equality is another surreptitious gimmick of the male chauvinists is beyond the scope of the current topic and would probably require a separate discussion.

The concluding theme of the matter is that whether it is Muslim Personal Law, Hindu Personal Law, or Uniform Civil Code, we would be dwindling in the decoy of treading a devious path if we do not attempt to accentuate and establish the damage that male chauvinism has begotten today’s familial existence. Devoid of this outlook, no civil code would probably be enough to ensure equitable justice. It is most becoming for organizations like AIMPLB to lead from the front and address the issues social awareness and privation of equitable justice. How far the male dominated society would essentially admit to this veracity and allow it to happen is the final question; and the most uncomfortable of all.

Sharjeel Ahmad is MBA from Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, and an Economics graduate from Aligarh Muslim University. He is an instructional designer by profession and is presently based in Saudi Arabia. He has keen interest in social, economic, and political issues facing Indian populace, with special emphasis on minority issues.

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