The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) -a national organisation for Muslim women- has sent the final draft of a law seeking equality and freedom for Muslim women to the Prime Minister.
The draft of the Muslim Family Law was completed in 2014 after seven long years of background research. Later, the organization also incorporated relevant portions received through public feedback and then released the final draft in the last week of November, sending a copy of the same to PM Modi too.
"Our aim is to formulate this law through campaigning. It took us years to draft and improvise the same. Now we have taken the campaigning to a different level," Noorjahan Safia Nia one of the BMMA founders told The News Minute.
The draft specifically deals with every aspect wherein Muslim women could face a possible marital crisis.
There are many prevailing unlawful marital practices among Muslims which have been reported over the years. The said draft deals with marriage, divorce, maintenance, custody of children and related issues.
The draft stresses the fact that marriage should be allowed and valid only after the bridegroom turns 21 and the bride completes 18 years. This should be authenticated by reliable proofs of the date of birth records.
In Kerala, child marriages still remain a secret scourge especially among Muslims. Data reveals that the Malappuram district alone witnesses around 2,500 child marriages a year. Muslims incidentally form the majority in Malappuram.
Another ill practice that affects the community is polygyny where men believe that according to the religious rules they can have four wives at a time.
The proposed law objects to this loophole and clearly says that while a marriage subsists, the man cannot marry another woman.
It is the responsibility of the Qazi (religious leader who conducts the marriage) âto ensure that the bride knows and consents to marry the bridegroom only if his previous wife has been divorced or deceased and may have had children from the previous marriage.â
The draft also entrusts certain responsibilities to the Qazi to avoid fake marriages.
The Qazi should demand authentic proofs from both parties to ensure submission of divorce papers or death certificate in case needed before conduct of any marriage ceremony.
Such strict enforcements could check human rightsâ violations among Muslim girls, where âArabi/Male Kalyanamâ was once a trend.
Young Muslim girls were married off to Arabs or people from Maldives on a visit to India. They were more often than not sexually abused and emotionally scarred by their husbands who invariably abandoned them once their visit was over.
The draft is also specific about the Mehr which is a sum of money or property gifted by the bridegroom to the bride.
It says that Mehr should not be less than the annual income of the bridegroom.
It should be for the exclusive use of the wife with no interference whatsoever from either set of parents and relatives.
All Muslim marriages should be registered with local state bodies like the Panchayat/ Block/District/Ward/Registrar Office under the relevant Marriage Registration Act.
This is rarely practised by Muslims, as it apparently goes against their religious laws. Since the community as a whole doesnât register marriages, it makes it easier for the men-folk to engage in polygyny.
In a survey conducted by BMMA in the five southern states, it was revealed that more than half of the Muslim women are divorced by the husband by pronouncing Talaq thrice and that too for the most trivial reasons.
The draft hence proposes that the whole divorce process -whether Talaq (divorce by husband), Faskh (dissolution of marriage), Khula (divorce by mutual consent) or Tafweedh (power of Talaq transferred to the wife)- should be legal, in writing and should be concluded over a period of four to five months.
The draft law cites certain grounds on which divorce can be allowed. It is for the arbitrator to check whether the requisite criteria are met.
In the wake of recent incidents of Talaq over phone, on WhatsApp, through sms etc, the draft points out that divorce granted by any other method other than those mentioned in the said proposal should be deemed invalid.
It has also condemned Halala -a practice where a woman is made to consummate a nikaah (marriage) with another man in order to go back to her former husband- as a serious offence.
A BMMA representative in Kerala who sought anonymity says, âMuslim women consider this proposal as their dream come true as it would grant them equality and dignity within the community by securing them their basic rights.â
BMMA has a wing in Kerala which operates in secret for the time being.