Ban triple talaq and dowry. Hire more police to protect women. Make India Great Again

Muslim brides wait for the start of their mass marriage ceremony in Mumbai May 11, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files

NEW YORK – The Supreme Court of India is on the verge of making a significant ruling on the abhorrent practice popularly known as triple talaq, or as Muslims known it, talaq-ul-bidat, the Sharia law that keeps the 90 million Muslim women in India on the verge of constant insecurity faced with the prospect of dissolution of their marriage in mere seconds with the repetition of the word ‘talaq’ thrice, signifying irrevocable divorce. In an era of social media, ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ need not even be said face-to-face. Some louts and cowards convey it through WhatsApp, text messages, from remote locations.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will ban triple talaq, make uttering that word in repetition a crime; rule that divorce is a legal matter between husband and wife, to be decided in a court, with issues like maintenance and justice attached to it.

The majority of Muslim women in India often have no say in their future. India Today reported, citing Census 2011 data, that out of all married Muslim women, 13.5% were married before the age of 15, and 49% were married between 14 and 19 years of age. A survey by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan revealed that 95% of divorced Muslim women received no maintenance from their husbands. Out of all divorced women, 65.9% were divorced orally, with no strings attached.

For religious zealots and those eager to protect their own machismo customs, banning triple talaq would signify uniform civil code in India. That would surely be welcome. But more importantly, banning an evil practice like triple talaq which even neighboring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have outlawed, would go a long way in giving respect and dignity back to not just Muslim girls and women, but all women in India.

The court shouldn’t stop their efforts to guide India to civility by just banning triple talaq. It should ban the practice of dowry too, put more stringent laws in place. Although there are rules in place that criminalizes the act of asking and receiving money from a bride’s family, the practice continues to flourish in parts of India.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 7,634 women died in dowry-related incidents, in 2015. The numbers has come down, though. In 2012, 18,233 dowry death cases were reported across India; meaning a bride was burned every 90 minutes. However, the decrease in the number of death doesn’t mean the scourge of dowry is less – it’s likely women in India are tolerating injustice. There’s data to support the fact that more people are coming forward to register dowry complaints, yet conviction rates are low, with only 34.7% cases seeing the perpetrator of dowry punished.

Practices like triple talaq and dowry go hand in hand in a fractured society like India, where crimes against women continue unabated, with degree of violence taking a raw, vicious turn after the Nirbhaya gang rape case in Delhi; replicated in many other such horrific cases, especially in north India. It seems even as sales of violent video games globally get an uptick, depravity among some men in India have touched new barbaric levels.

But violence against women in India has nothing to do with violent video games, or films for that matter. It’s the vicious cycle of subjugation of women, suppression of their rights, which has led to horrific gang rapes committed on a daily basis, with the rate of women who are raped and mutilated being murdered too, on the upsurge.

The Supreme Court should look into states which cannot control violence against women, make elected officials accountable. Politicians have to be made accountable for crime rates in their state.

Then only there would be genuine effort to hire more law enforcement, police personnel in India, to protect and safeguard women and women’s rights. Today, parents of a girl child in India have few moments of peace, are scared of letting their child play even outside their house. It’s a nation on the edge, tolerating unspeakable crimes, with faint hope that things will get better someday.

It’s ridiculous for India to tout itself as a country on the make to get a developed nation status when they cannot impose strict adherence to women’s rights, and respect for law and order. More importantly, India at present is on the crossroads of a bleak future with unemployment rising, more and more youth in the doldrums without job prospects.

The Times of India reported that while India’s economy is growing at over 7%, jobs increased by just 1.1%, in 2016, going by eight key sectors of the non-farm economy. Joblessness is at a five-year high of 5%, as of 2015, and under-employment at a staggering 35% of the over-15 years of age in the labor force.

If there’s a global downturn, India’s economy goes in a tailspin, unemployment will further soar. The last thing the country needs is for irate young men without jobs to resort to more violence against women. If Indian men grow up seeing women shorn of rights, subjugated, brutalized, it’s only natural for them to resort to the same level of conduct later in their own life.

It’s imperative for India to put in place strong laws to respect women and their rights, so that a generation later it begins to show marked levels of improvement. It’s the only way to Make India Great Again, borrowing a line from President Donald Trump.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)



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