Fatima*, a young, bright woman, was married at the age of 18 and lived with her husband and in-laws for four years. She had two girls with her husband by the age of 23. Everything seemed normal in her marriage, but suddenly, in 2013, her husband gave her an impulse triple talaq - without any prior notice - and married his deceased brother’s widow, as a form of charity.
Rizwana* was also married at a young age. Her husband was a man who engaged in petty thefts and anti-social activities. She, too, gave birth to two little girls. One day, her husband divorced her out of the blue - another case of triple talaq - stating that he wished to marry another woman.
Fatima and Rizwana are just two of the many women who have been unceremoniously dumped by their husbands in Kerala using the triple talaq.
In fact, activists and scholars say that even the quran prohibits a man from using triple talaq in an impulsive manner. But that hasn’t stopped men from using this method.
Sapna Parameswarath, an advocate at the Punarjani Charitable Trust, says that there are numerous triple talaq cases in Kerala, yet they go unreported as the women have a “fear of confrontation”. The official records report a low number of cases, in response to which this group of lawyers have filed an RTI to find out the actual number of women who have faced triple talaq.
“There are so many women who face triple talaq. Our organisation understands that there are three basic prerequisites to triple talaq: one, there needs to reasonable cause. Two, there needs to be effective conciliation between the husband and the wife, and three, the wife’s consent is mandatory in recognition of her legal status, and the husband needs to provide compensation,” Sapna explains.
While Muslim countries across the world, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey have banned the practice of triple talaq, India, a democratic nation that takes pride in its secular constitution, still continues this practice. There have been numerous cases of triple talaq all around India, where husbands have separated from their wives over text messages and phone calls, without any reasonable grounds.
Even Kerala, a state that has gained international acclaim for its steps towards achieving 100% primary education, a balanced male-to-female ratio, and setting up a separate court for the welfare of transgender persons, is yet to pass a law that abolishes triple talaq. Women across Kerala have been abandoned by their husbands through triple talaq over the years and it continues even today.
In Fatima and Rizwana’s case, both of them fought their husbands for right to residence, and the custody of their children, through the Punarjani Trust and the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan.
For Fatima, a magistrate court ruled that her husband had to provide Rs 6 lakh as compensation towards her and their daughters. The custody of the daughters was handed over to Fatima, while the husband was given court-mandated visits to meet the girls on a weekly basis.
Rizwana meanwhile made a settlement with her husband after fighting a legal battle for several years. Her husband was ordered to provide a mandatory compensation of Rs 7.8 lakh that would cover living, medical and educational expenses. The husband did not put up a custodial fight for the children and the girls remained with Rizwana.
“We were lucky that these girls were brave and were willing to put up a fight against their husbands,” says Sapna.
“Unfortunately, not many are willing to come forward. To further complicate the matter and discourage them, the husbands and in-laws register FIRs and cases on false grounds like property theft, and engage in dowry harassment against the women,” she adds.