Prominent Civil Society Groups, Intellectuals Urge President Not to Sign Talaq Bill; Call it ‘Charade’

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A survey found that the incidence of the so-called “oral triple talaq” (where ‘talaq’ is uttered thrice at one go, without any witnesses or record) among the 331 cases was just 1 — or a mere 0.3%. — File photo used for illustrative purposes

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI —  Prominent civil society groups, intellectuals and individuals cutting across religious boundaries on Wednesday condemned the passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019 by BJP-led government and urged the President of India Ramnath Kovind to use his good offices and not to sign it into law.

They are of the view that the new Bill is an attempt of the ruling BJP to criminalize Muslim men in the guise of protecting Muslim women and termed it a complete ‘charade’. They also condemned the opposition parties for failing to defeat the bill despite having majority in the Upper House of Parliament.

More than 100 civil groups, intellectuals, professionals, and activists issued a joint statement after the BJP government on Tuesday succeeded in its third attempt in passing the controversial bill which criminanlises the instant triple talaq. They underlined that at a time when all right-thinking Indians are alarmed at the daily barbaric acts of the lynching of Muslims and the impunity to the perpetrators being provided by the government, this bill is a complete charade.

“You cannot pretend to save Muslim women while seeking to bring the Muslim community to its knees,” statement reads.

They also underlined that Personal laws of all communities are civil matters, not criminal matters and it is the first time in the history of India, that criminal provisions were incorporated in matters of marriage and divorce.

Questioning the intention of the government, they asked why the bill was not sent to a select committee.

They pointed out that after the Supreme Court in 2017 already made the pronouncement of talaq in a single setting void in law, it is an absurdity to make a person uttering it criminally liable, facing 3 years of imprisonment.

Does this bill really care about Muslim women’s access to justice? “Imprisoning the husband for three years leaves the aggrieved complainant at the mercy of her matrimonial family, liable to turn hostile and vengeful towards the wife for putting husband behind the bars,” they added.

It is for the first time in the history of India a civil act was declared as criminal act as “Personal laws of all communities are civil matters, not criminal matters”, the statement said.

“This is the first time in the history of India, that we are witnessing criminal provisions in matters of marriage and divorce. In its intent and target, it is clear that this is not a pro-woman but an anti-minority bill.”

Activists and intellectuals also condemned opposition parties for the ineffective strategy to defeat the bill and some of them like TRS, BSP, JDU and others staged a walk out to pave the way for getting the bill through in the House where Opposition parties have more numbers.

“We further condemn the utterly ineffective floor management of the opposition parties. The time opposition leaders have spent in making passionate speeches against this bill would have been better spent in reaching out to all parties and ensuring their presence for this vote.

 “This is not the kind of opposition that many Indians voted for, and we deserve and demand better.”

 They urged the opposition to stand up to its constitutional duty and protect Indian democracy that is being eroded by the day, with the number of anti-people legislations that are being passed by this government.

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Full text of the statement issued by Civil Society groups and intellectuals:

“We, the undersigned groups and individuals, condemn the government’s attempt to criminalize Muslim men in the guise of protecting Muslim women. We stand today in strong opposition to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019 which has been pushed through the Rajya Sabha in great haste by this government. Why it was not sent to a select committee? We shall petition the Honorable President to not sign it into law.

At a time when all right-thinking Indians are alarmed at the daily barbaric acts of lynching of Muslims and the impunity to the perpetrators being provided by the government, this bill is a complete charade. You cannot pretend to save Muslim women, while seeking to bring the Muslim community to its knees.

After the Supreme Court in 2017 already made the pronouncement of talaq in a single setting void in law, it is an absurdity to make a person uttering it criminally liable, facing 3 years of imprisonment. Does this bill really care about Muslim women’s access to justice? Imprisoning the husband for three years, leaves the aggrieved complainant at the mercy of her matrimonial family, liable to turn hostile and vengeful towards the wife for putting him behind the bars.

Her financial security and that of her children is of no concern in this bill.

Personal laws of all communities are civil matters, not criminal matters. This is the first time in the history of India, that we are witnessing criminal provisions in matters of marriage and divorce. In its intent and target, it is clear that this is not a pro-woman but an anti-minority bill.

We further condemn the utterly ineffective floor management of the opposition parties. The time opposition leaders have spent in making passionate speeches against this bill would have been better spent in reaching out to all parties and ensuring their presence for this vote. This is not the kind of opposition that many Indians voted for, and we deserve and demand better. We urge the opposition to stand up to its constitutional duty and protect Indian democracy that is being eroded by the day, with the number of anti-people legislations that are being passed by the government.

The statement is signed by including Bebaak Collective; United Against Hate; Farah Naqvi, Writer, and Activist, Delhi; Uma Chakravarti, Historian, feminist activist, Delhi; Harsh Mander- Aman Biradari; Kalyani Menon Sen, Activist and Researcher, Delhi; Brinelle D’Souza, TISS; Geeta Seshu, Journalist – Mumbai; Arundhati Dhuru – Human Right Activist, Lucknow; Madhavi Kukreja – Women activist, Lucknow; Ritu Dewan, Economist – Mumbai; Muniza Khan, Banaras; Hameeda Khatoon, Lucknow; Dev Desai – Social activist, Delhi; Johanna Lokhande; Nandita Narain, Delhi; Sophia Khan lawyer and women activist, Gujarat; Nasiruddin Haider – Journalist and activist, Lucknow; Sangita Malshe, Maharashtra; Manisha Gupte – Women Activist, Pune; Biraj Mehta – Academician, Mumbai; Persis Ginwala, Ahmedabad; Sandhya Panaskar – women activist; Purnima Gupta, Delhi; Anita Rego, Hyderabad; Dimple Oberoi Vahali; Mamta Singh, Women Right Activist, Lucknow; Sadaf Jafar, Lucknow; Talat Aziz, Lucknow; Mumtaz Shaikh – Maharashtra; Supriya Sonar, Maharashtra; Padma , Womens rights Activist, Allahabad; Anita Cheria, Bangalore; Shilpa Phadke – Academician; Sylvia Karpagam – public health doctor and Researcher; Saurav Datta – journalist and activist; Adv. Sanobar Kishwar; Runu Chakrvarty, Delhi; Sheeba George, Women Activist, Ahmedabad; Indian Christian Women’s Movement (Mumbai); Forum Against Oppression for women; Aawaz E Niswan; Parwaaz, Gujarat; Sahiyar, Gujarat.

 

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