Thursday, June 19, 2014

Indian Muslim Women’s Group Calls for Abolishing Oral Divorce, Polygamy

Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai | June 18, 2014

In a move aimed at improving the conditions of Muslim women across the country, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has finalised a draft Muslim family law which does away with oral divorce, polygamy and also stipulates the Mehr amount paid to a woman at her wedding

The draft law called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act will be released on Wednesday.

For the past seven years, the BMMA has been working on the draft law in which for the first time Islamic laws pertaining to marriage, divorce and maintenance have been codified. The BMMA is hoping the government uses this draft law to improve the condition of Muslim women in the country.

The draft stipulates that the bride should at least be 18 years of age while the bridegroom should be at least 21 years of age and neither of the two should have a living spouse, thus ensuring that polygamy is stopped. The Islamic laws allow a Muslim man to have upto four wives.

The draft also states that the minimum amount of Mehr, which is the paid by the groom to the bride during the wedding, shall not be less than one full annual income of the groom. It further states that if the stipulated Mehr is not paid within six months of marriage, then the groom will have to pay double the amount. Presently some grooms give an amount as less as Rs 786 as Mehr.

The draft law virtually abolishes oral divorce and triple Talaq. It states that only the Talaq-e-Ahsan method should be followed.

In this method once the divorce is pronounced the couple waits for three months in what is seen as a period to sort out differences. This keeps the option of a reunion open and the husband can reverse the process of divorce if both parties agree.

The draft also imposes heavy penalty on offenders, including cancelling of a qazi’s licence for repeat offences in failing to ensure fulfilment of conditions during marriage. It also calls for action under the Criminal Procedure Code for all those who fail to pay maintenance.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1936. This law makes the Shariat applicable on Muslims. However this law is not codified and is open to interpretations by local clergy. Various women’s groups have been demanding that the Muslim Personal Law should be codified so that its provisions are clear to everyone.

However, conservative clergy has claimed the codification is tantamount to tampering with the Shariat and the Islamic way of life. The state is also not very keen on taking up the issue for fear of antagonizing the clergy.

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