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The Relevance of Triple Talaq in the Context of Intersectional Feminism

The Relevance of Triple Talaq in the Context of Intersectional Feminism

By Anusha Nagavarapu

Introduction:

There lies an important connection between feminism, in general and the Triple Talaq advancement that has occurred. This paper will attempt to keenly analyse as to what intersectional feminism is, and the connect it has with that of the marginalised Muslim Women in India. It is important to discuss Triple Talaq in the context of feminism. Many a times, feminism is viewed so as to portray a generalized view of the issues all women undergo. This represents a distorted image, as feminism seeks to address the diverse issues of women from different socials strata, owing to the unique social constructs that surround them. Thus, the Author strives to draw attention of the masses on the Triple Talaq advancement, and prove it to be a progressive step in the history of India from a feminist perspective.

It all began with Shayara Bano, who was married for 15 years, and was divorced by her husband through talaq-e-bidat. It’s an arbitrary tool in the hands of Muslim men that allows them to divorce their wives irrevocably by saying the word ‘talaq’ three times. Nikah halala, and the practice of triple talaq were argued to be unconstitutional before the Court, and in violation of her fundamental rights, namely Article 14, Article 15(1), Article 21, and Article 25. The case primarily focused on triple talaq, and set aside the same.

Relevance of Intersectionality and Muslim Women

In simple terms, Intersectional Feminism can be viewed as a concept that includes those situations that are “unique”.  Before getting into what these unique circumstances are, one ought to consider Feminism from the American perspective. The prevalent issues that remain there are those pertaining racism, i.e. ones involving Black lives. Feminism was viewed primarily from a White woman’s perspective, the assumption being that the issues being addressed were only those of White women, thereby completely excluding women of marginalised communities. This is where “intersectionality” comes into play.

What Intersectional feminism basically says, is that there exists privilege within the female community in itself, and that feminism would be futile without taking into consideration the “unique” situation of marginality and the oppressed class, that makes the plight of these particular women distinct in itself. Similarly, one can draw a similar comparison in India itself. Caste, creed, sex, race, religion play a vital role in the demographic of our nation. That being the case, Muslim women owing to their unique situation in terms of the religious oppression that falls upon them, are a marginalised community in our society. When compared with maybe a Hindu woman, would say the latter holds a certain privilege in society.

The reason for this being (while comparing with Muslim women) that a Hindu woman is not subject to a polygamous marriage, against her will. Also that in matters of divorce, no concept of the arbitrary Triple Divorce in Hinduism exists, and a normal judicial procedure is required to file for divorce. Thus where a Hindu woman wishes to resume her marital relations, she may do so by a simple procedure, Muslim woman, on the other hand,  must follow “Nikah halala” implying that after her divorce, she can remarry only after observing an Iddat period of 3 months (where for 90 days and confirmation of 3 consecutive menstrual cycle).

Taking this as a brief example, one can say that Muslim women are a marginalised community in India, owing to the special circumstances of oppression they are subject to everyday. This is precisely why Intersectional feminism is so relevant in this context. It takes into consideration the plight of women in the context of their circumstances that are unlike those of other privileged women.

The Triple Talaq Judgement: Progress towards Tenets of Intersectional Feminism:

The issue of intersectional feminism stems from over 65 years of oppression for Muslim women, contributing to nearly 8% of the population.[1] Discriminatory practices that ruined the lives of many have existed and been deemed legal, since time immemorial. Be it apartheid, slavery or colonialism, it wasn’t until these marginalised communities stood up against these practices and came together so as to bring about an end to these. And this is what happened in the case of Triple Talaq as well.

From an Intersectional Perspective, the relevant thing to bear in mind is that this situation is important to Muslim women alone. The Triple Talaq Bill is a win for the struggles they suffered through, and for overcoming them. It is a victory for that section of women in the Indian society who are brutally shattered by archaic and arbitrary discriminatory practices that violate their very fundamental rights, which just goes to show that a bare text of the Constitution, are inadequate to assure every human being the lifestyle the deserve at the least. It isn’t enough to have a Constitution that ensures everyone their fundamental rights, because when they are violated the Constitution remains nullified, and the violations are what prevail. This is why the judgement holds such a primary place in the lives of these women.

The Supreme Court in 2017 held Triple Talaq as “unconstitutional” and directed the Union Government to frame appropriate legislation so as to ensure the upliftment and liberation of Muslim women. This judgement is relevant in the sense that the plight of Muslim women has finally been recognized, which in itself recognizes certain section of Muslim Women as a marginalized and in need of an immediate change to the state of their lives. A Muslim woman having to undergo the torment of never knowing when she may be thrown out of her own home, and having her life completely fall before her within a matter of a few seconds; is a situation one can only describe as unfathomable. A grave injustice having been done to these women only begs the question as to why this judgement wasn’t pronounced sooner.

The Supreme Court ruled against the practice of instant triple talaq by a majority of 3:2. One needs to truly understand what this means. It means that while a good proportion of the bench clearly failed to understand the essence of gender equality, a majority did. It is a judgement like this which sets India  a class apart. A number of things may be considered while viewing the overall development of a nation. And while we may be digitized, nuclear, and whatever else that comes with being a superpower, what truly makes us one is a brief viewing of how strong the women in our nation are. And that is exactly what this judgement entails. It is giving Muslim women, and about time too- power.

The Supreme Court delved into the necessary essentials of Triple Talaq, and analysed whether the practice was legitimate or not. The commendable judgement of the Court is remarkable in the sense that all political considerations were disregarded, and the case was viewed from a strictly constitutional perspective. It is a moment to be proud, for yes, it isn’t possible to bring about an immediate change in practice, but it is to be thought of a step towards advancement in mindset, and that is the biggest indication of progress in a nation there can ever be.

An illustration as to this progress in mindset can be viewed from the Preamble of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 (Triple Talaq Bill) which was passed by majority by the Lower house on December 28, 2017.

"To protect the rights of the Married Muslim Women and prohibit divorce by pronouncing Talaq by their Husbands and provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto"

The bill mentions in its statement of objects and reasons that the judgement has failed to act as a deterrant in bringing down the number of triple talaq cases. It explains, “It is, therefore, felt that there is a need for State action to give effect to the order of the Supreme Court and to redress the grievances of victims of illegal divorce. In order to prevent the continued harassment being meted out to the hapless married Muslim women due to talaq-e-biddat, urgent suitable legislation is necessary to give some relief to them.”

The Union Government iterates that this legislation is what will ensure the Constitutional goals of gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women, thus fighting undue discrimination and arbitrariness, leading to eventual empowerment and liberation. These are all illustrations of what intersectional feminism advocates for, and they all are examples of feminist growth.

Conclusion

It is safe to say that the Triple Talaq judgement is a step towards liberation for Muslim women, from an intersectional perspective. This is an intersectional issue. There are others out there, women of marginalized societies that will seek inspiration from these women and will seek to become aware of their rights and fight the same way Muslim women did. Women will now be aware that with great oppression, comes great possibility. This judgement has paved the way for a new era- a  new beginning that is bound to send a message to all women in India that oppression is no longer our fear. It goes to show that women with no resources that come from absolutely no where can and are more than capable to fight. Gender equality is no longer a distant dream, but an awakened dragon that is bound to create history. Many other forms of oppression Muslim women undergo will also be called into question, soon enough; The unfair practice of polygamy, being one of them.

A paper I read comes to mind in this context[2], wherein the words of Jawaharlal Nehru were quoted. Taya Zinkin[3] had talked with him, and questioned him as to what his most noteworthy achievement was. Nehru replied: “I prevailing to secure rights for my Hindu sisters which were denied to them for a considerable length of time.”
She then asked him what his biggest disappointment was. He said, “I couldn’t accomplish the same for my Muslim sisters.”

Today, we may say that we did. This judgement has enlightened the lives of millions across the nation, and it only gets better from here.

 


[1] 2011 census

[2] Analysis of Triple Talaw Judgement and The Road Ahead, Karandeep Kundu

[3] Reporter for the Guardian

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