It was in 2002 that Tamil poet and politician Salma first broached the subject of instant triple talaq. Born into a Muslim family and part of a patriarchal set-up, she passionately scribbled verses onto scraps of paper. She could not even openly pen poems at home, as her family did not encourage such literary interests.
“I wrote against the practice with a lot of emotion but tore it down soon after because I was scared of backlash from my husband’s family,” she says.
Now, 15 years later, the Supreme Court has labelled divorce by instant talaq ‘unconstitutional’. Salma now has no qualms about calling the practice unacceptable and sexist. She is, however, by her own admission, still afraid.
On Monday, a five-judge bench of the apex court barred ‘instant triple talaq’ and asked the Centre to bring about a legislation regarding the matter. The Supreme Court put a six month stay on the practice and directed the Parliament to enact a law within the given time period.
“For the BJP government in power at the Centre, this is an opportunity to push for Uniform Civil Code,” says the 48-year-old Muslim woman. “We welcome the SC’s verdict but I am afraid that minority rights will be snatched away by the legislation that comes about now,” she adds.
The poet alleges that the Centre has repeatedly targeted minorities and quotes the restrictions on beef consumption as an example. Salma further opines that movement to ban the practice of instant triple talaq is highly politicised.
“The Quran does not allow for this instant talaq. This is done by men who do not understand Islam,” explains the poet. “Women who demanded that it be scrapped are basically asking for the Quran to be followed. But politicians make it seem like they are against the religion itself,” she observes.
While the poet admitted that certain practices need to be addressed, Salma notes, “But Muslim women have more rights than women from other religions. They are allowed to remarry after being widowed and given property rights. Muslims do not believe in infanticide or foeticide either.”
When asked why she was not allowed to pursue her education, Salma attributes it to cultural factors.
“It doesn’t matter what faith you follow. Men are always trying to suppress women. Trying to single out one religion and accuse its members of sexism does not make sense,” says the poet.
So, she feels that a Uniform Civil code should not be brought about in India? “There will come a time when it is required. But that time is not now,” she says, elaborating no further.