I must confess that I was very much surprised at that statement, for the simple reason that we have in this country a uniform code of laws covering almost every aspect of human relationship. We have a uniform and complete Criminal Code operating throughout the country, which is contained in the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. We have the Law of Transfer of Property, which deals with property relations and which is operative throughout the country. ... The only province the Civil Law has not been able to invade so far is Marriage and Succession. ..Therefore, the argument whether we should attempt such a thing seems to me somewhat misplaced for the simple reason that we have, as a matter of fact, covered the whole lot of the field which is covered by a uniform Civil Code in this country.” – Dr Babasaheb B R Ambedkar CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIA DEBATES (PROCEEDINGS), VOLUME VII, November 23, 1948
After a long struggle and swings in favour and against, Muslim women are set to get freedom from the patriarchal and archaic custom of instant triple talaq. Breaking the hurdles in Rajya Sabha, the Union Government ensured the implementation of the Supreme Court order declaring Triple Talaq as a criminal offence. There will be various interpretations of this great leap forward. Many dissenting voices have already emerged talking about Hindu customs and traditions, perceived to be discriminatory. It should certainly be discussed and deliberated from the ‘rights’ point of view of the women facing discrimination but that cannot be an excuse to continue with the unholy interpretation of religion by a body of clerics. The judgement by the Supreme Court on August 22, 2017, declaring instant triple talaq as unconstitutional and therefore, a criminal offence itself, was a historic development in the quest for gender justice, Government in adherence to that judgement has a great implications in the future which should not be analysed from the conventional cacophony of vote-bank politics but from the larger national context.
Yes, triple-talaq is to do with the Muslim women who approached the court for relief time and again. So its immediate impact will be limited to the Muslim society. From Shah Bano to Shayara Banu, many Muslim mothers and sisters such as Aafreen Rehman, Gulshan Parveen, Ishrat Jahan, Atiya Sabri approached the court for relief from this inhuman and unequal interpretation of the religious text in their quest for equality. They not only built a network of Triple Talaq affected women but took on the powerful and patriarchal organisations like Jamiat Ulma-i-Hind and All India Muslim Personal Law Board. As Savitribai Phule turned out to be the torchbearer of opening education for girls in the nineteenth century, these women will be remembered for liberating their sisters from the fear of instant abandonment by husbands for frivolous reasons without any social security. This will pave the way for change in the man-woman relationship not just within the Muslim community but the entire nation.
The passage of the bill not only defeated the fundamentalist faces that claim monopoly over religion but also exposed the political parties, intellectuals and feminists who keep preaching equality and gender justice but do not dare challenge the religious fundamentalists who consider themselves above the Constitution. Defeating the hypocrisy of such forces also mark the advent of new beginning in Bharat, as they no longer can claim monopoly over truth and justice. The national perspective for dealing with the social issues, going beyond the communal explanation in the name of secularism, will automatically get preponderance with the decisive blow to self-proclaimed secularists.
As Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar argued in the Constituent Assembly, while discussing the provisions related to the Uniform Civil Code, most of our legal provisions, including in the civil matters, are uniform and equal in nature. Only the issues related to marriage, divorce and succession are community specific. Goa has the Uniform Civil Code applied to all Goan citizens irrespective of religion, ethnicity or linguistic affiliation and none of the community there ever found it discriminatory towards them. Every community can practise their rituals and customs but when it comes to the issue of honouring social relations and institutions like marriage, there has to be uniform legal bindings. Our Constitution makers envisioned this for the future generations, our courts also directed towards the same and now our law makers are also showing the will. We need to build a social consensus for a uniform civil law for all and that will be the biggest outcome of the passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill 2019.