Muslim women freed themselves from the practice of triple talaq – or instant divorce – after years of struggle, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.
Modi cited measures implemented by his government to ensure equal rights for Muslim women on two different occasions – his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address and a religious event at a Kerala mutt – on the eve of the New Year. Though he did not mention the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill, which criminalises triple talaq, these were his first remarks on the issue since the Lok Sabha passed the bill on December 28.
In his radio address aired on Sunday morning, the Prime Minister termed the policy of letting Muslim women perform Haj only in the company of a male guardian as discriminatory. The Centre recently removed the restriction, following which hundreds of women opted to travel solo. Decisions such as these will “have a far-reaching impact on our image as a society”, Modi said on the radio.
Delivering his address at the 85th pilgrimage celebrations of Varkala’s Sivagiri Mutt through video conferencing, Modi said his government’s initiative to ban instant divorce would also go a long way in empowering women of the minority community. “The hardships faced by our Muslim mothers and sisters due to triple talaq are not hidden from anybody. After years of struggle, they have found a way to free themselves from the practice,” he added.
The bill makes instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ a cognizable and non-bailable offence, and provides for a jail term of up to three years. Under the draft law, women can also seek a subsistence allowance from their husbands and claim the custody of their children. A magistrate’s court is empowered to decide on the extent of the jail term and fine amount, among other factors. The bill is likely to be taken up by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Triple talaq was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in August, after which the government drafted the proposed law. Ishrat Jahan, one of the five petitioners in the case, joined the BJP at Howrah, West Bengal, on Saturday.