Talaq finds space on new age platforms

Tech driven

The advent of social media brought about a sea change in the ways people communicate, making it much easier and faster. However, one could never imagine that modern technology could also prove to be a bane for Muslim women as far as ‘talaq’ was concerned with divorce now increasingly being delivered through emails, Whatsapp and other social media platforms.

A survey conducted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) across 10 states, released in the national capital on August 20, suggested that out of the 265 talaqs registered in 2014, 80 per cent of them were oral.

“Oral talaq is the most common form of talaq where the man just needs to utter the word or even write it on a scrap of paper and the women need not be even present. Now, with the coming of new technology, it is being increasingly done on communication platforms like Whatsapp, email, Skype and others. Technology has made talaq much easier for men,” Zakia Soman of BMMA told Metrolife.

As part of the study - Seeking Justice Within Family’ - a detailed questionnaire was prepared and administered to 4,710 Muslim women above the age of 18 years.

The purpose of the study was to ascertain the status of Muslim women pertaining to matters such as marriage, divorce, maintenance and custody of children.

The study revealed that 92.1 per cent women wanted a total ban on oral/unilateral divorce, with 88.5 per cent women wanting the qazi, who sends the notice of oral divorce, to be punished. Additionally, 93 per cent wanted arbitration processto be between three to six months, along with 91.7 per cent speaking out against polygamy.

“My study done in 2012 published in the Pakistan Journal of Women Studies, 2013, Imtiaz Ahmad Book 2001 and other studies of mine reveal the same that the development and use of modern technology is doing harm to Muslim women as far as the issue of talaq is concerned which no doubt is injustice to women’s rights and enhancing male privilege,” said Dr Sabiha Hussain, associate professor, Programme on Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Dr K R Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia.

She added that by using such technologies to deliver divorce, men “misuse the right given to them” and “In many cases women do not get their mehar and maintenance because men are physically not present while uttering the word,” she said.

The study, the data for which was collected over the period between July to December 2013, also said that Muslim women are aware of their legal rights and are determined to attain justice in family matters, further demanding reforms in Muslim personal law as is prevalent in India today.

“An overwhelming 83.3 per cent women feel that their family disputes can be resolved if the law is codified. 89 per cent want the government to intervene in helping codify the Muslim personal law. Over 86 per cent want women religious leaders to take responsibility for enabling Muslim women to get justice in family, and 90 per cent women want qazi to be brought under legal accountability mechanisms,” the study said.

Concurring, Bader Sayeed, advocate, Madras High Court -  one of the first votaries of the concept of codification of the Muslim Personal law since 1982, said: “A considerable portion of my law practice deals with marriage and divorce and associated legal problems. A significant section of this practice is concerned with marriage, divorce and maintenance concerning Muslim women.”

“Despite my thinking that the Muslim personal law should be codified, in the present situation, I believe that it is going to take a very long time, if at all. Therefore, I am of the opinion that the need of the hour is to make sure that every divorce and related issues among Muslims, men and women (inclusive of both) should be adjudicated by the courts of law and should carry the stamp of the judiciary,” Sayeed said.

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