Dimwit: My head is bursting in anger. I hear Muslim men can divorce their wives just by saying talaq three times. Wtf. What kind of a government we have. Why don’t they do something about this?
Smart-ass: This is your problem. Outraging without knowing.
Dimwit : But this is wrong!
Smart-ass: Of course it is wrong. But there is hardly anything the government can do about it. Muslim marriages come under Muslim personal law based on Shariat.
Dimwit: So how does this Triple Talaq thing work?
Smart-ass: There have been reports of men divorcing their wives over phone, through a facebook post, a whatsapp message or even an SMS. They can get drunk and divorce their wives by mistake. Although many defenders of process say that no such thing happens. It’s a well thought out community process with a certain period given to the alienated couple to reconcile. But there is nothing the government can do about it. FYI…Muslim are also allowed to marry more than one woman.
Smart-ass: Yes. They are allowed to. That doesn’t mean they always necessarily do. But if they want to, there is no law that can stop them. In fact until 1955 even Hindu men could marry more than once. It was banned after the Hindu marriage Act came into existence.
Dimwit: Well, how did the Muslim men manage to escape the law’s reach?
Smart ass: Because we never implemented Uniform Civil Code as directed by Article 44.
Dimwit: We didn’t implement what as directed by what?
Smart ass: Article 44 of our constitution is a directive principle (meaning guiding principles) that states that our government must strive to bring the entire country under one law. That essentially means abolition of all personal laws.
Dimwit: Matlab? Don’t we already have a common law system. Is the punishment for a murder or rape or theft different for a Muslim man, a Hindu man and a Christian man?
Smart ass: Uff no baba.
Dimwit: Then what do you mean by different laws governing different religion.
Smart ass: These separate laws only pertain to personal laws like marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance.
Dimwit: I see. But what’s the problem in implementing this Uniform thing. It seems like a cool law. Equality and stuff and also women get their rights.
Smart ass: Muslim Personal Board has always opposed it. They call it interference in their religious matter. In 1975, a 62 year old woman named Shah Bano, mother of five, was given triple talaq by her husband.
When the case went to Supreme Court, it ruled in Bano’s favour asking the husband to pay her alimony. But the husband refused to pay alimony saying he would follow Muslim Personal Law. Under pressure from Muslim groups, the Parliament had to reverse the Court’s judgement. Since then there has been a demand for doing away with the triple talaq system.
Dimwit: But how is implementation of Uniform Civil Code an interference in religious matter? Will it bar people from practicing their faith freely?
Smart-ass: No, they can wear their religious attire, go to their place of worship, preach their religion, run religious education institutes. Our country guarantees the right to freedom religion as a fundamental right. So, there will be no change as such except that Muslim women will no longer have to live under the constant threat of being divorced without alimony or forced to accept her husband’s decision to marry another woman.
Dimwit: Then what is the problem of the Muslim Personal Law Board and who are they to oppose the government?
Smart-ass: Many Muslim organisations see this as a right-wing government’s attempt to muzzle the minority’s rights. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, an NGO was formed in 1973 with the very purpose of continued applicability of the Muslim Personal Law.
Indians have always been very sensitive about their personal laws. In 1891, when Britishers wanted to raise the minimum marriageable age of the female from 10 to 12 years, prominent Indians like Bal Gangadhar Tilak raised a hue and cry about it.
Dimwit: *About to faint* That’s like someone with my mental getting married back then and the Britishers who ruled over us for 200 years and tortured us and took away all our riches, could do nothing about it.
Smart ass: Well yeah.
Dimwit: But what about religion other than Hindus and Muslims? Do they have their separate laws as well.
Smart ass: They also have their separate marriage laws. For eg: Hindu couples only have to observe a separation period of one year to be eligible for a mutual divorce while Christian women have to wait for two years. Jains, Buddhists are covered under the Hindu Marriage Act. Till recently even Sikhs were covered in it.
Dimwit: So why is the triple talaq and Uniform Civil Code in news now?
Smart-ass: The Narendra Modi government has opposed triple talaq in Supreme Court. Also the National Law Commission has sent out a questionnaire asking the general public to give their opinion whether we should implement a Uniform civil code or not.
Dimwit: And the Personal Board people are outraging over this?
Smart-ass: Had the Personal Law Board people read the Law Commission’s questionnaire they would have understood that the it is only an attempt to improve upon many practical problems that couples of different faiths face in marriage. It has nothing against one faith. It talks about the problems of inheritance among Hindus, it raises questions on a common consent age for marriage across religion. It also invites suggestions on how the process of compulsory marriage registration can be made efficient. It addresses the very real fear that couples face in inter-religion marriages.
Dimwit: And what about the threat of honour killing looming over couples in inter-caste marriages.
Smart-ass: *Surprised* Smart questions dimwit. But, the law commission’s questionnaire doesn’t address this issue.
Dimwit: Then what kind of Uniform Civil Code is that. Why can’t we protect couples in inter-caste marriages.
Smart-ass: That’s a debate for another day.