Support Muslim family law, women’s group urges Rahul, Opposition

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) on Friday urged all opposition leaders, including Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi, to extend their support for the proposed Muslim family law.

In a letter to Gandhi and other major Opposition parties, the BMMA founders – Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz – said that although the Supreme Court has struck down ‘Triple Talaq’ in its judgement last August, other issues like ‘nikah halala’, polygamy, age of marriage, custody of children, etc, remain unaddressed.

The BMMA has been actively raising these issues to end the legal discrimination and demanding justice and equality in family matters which are orthodox, patriarchical and male-dominated, they said.

The males have stonewalled all attempts towards reforms in the Muslim Personal Law and Muslim women have been denied their Quranic rights as as well as their rights as equal Indian citizens.

“Among all Muslim countries in the world, such as Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and even Bangladesh and Pakistan in our neighbourhood have codified personal laws governing marriage and family matters. But Indian Muslim women have been denied protection of law,” said Soman and Niaz.

They pointed out a 2015 research study where 92.1 percent of all Muslim women sought a total ban on oral/unilateral divorce and 91.7 percent opposed polygamy, while 83.3 percent felt that codification of Muslim family law would help Muslim women get justice.

In its grassroots work in different parts of India, the BMMA has found that just as Hindus, Christians and Parsis have their own personal laws and Muslims must also have a similar personal law ensuring equality and dignity to their womenfolk.

The two activists said that this can be achieved either through amendments to the Shariat Application Act, 1937 and Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, or by enacting a completely new Muslim Personal Law with the desired reforms.

The BMMA has already prepared a draft on this based on Quranic tenets concerning age of marriage, mehr, talaq, polygamy, maintenance, custody of children, etc, which in consonance with the Constitution.

The draft suggests that the minimum marriage age for girls and boys be 18 and 21 respectively, consent of both sides without force or fraud for marriage, minimum ‘mehr’ to be equivalent to one full annual income of the groom to be paid at the time of solemnising ‘nikaah’.

Besides, the BMMA draft says talaq’should precede a mandatory arbitration over a 90-day period and polygamy should be declared as illegal, while ‘halala’ and ‘muta marriage’ should be made punishable offences.

On children, it seeks that both the mother and father be declared as natural guardians of the child, and custody of children be based on the best interests and decision of the child.

Similarly in property matters, the Quranic shares to be applied while making will or clearing debts for ensuring justice to the women.