We had the women’s day celebrated all round the world couple of days back. On this occasion, lets analyze the “LEGAL” rights in matter of personal/Civil space of Muslim Women v/s rest.
When I say Civil Rights, I mean, Marriage, Divorce, Ploygny, Polyandry, Succession, Maintenance and Adoption .
As far as adoption is concerned there is no discrimination per-se and we wont consider this here.
The Hindus(includes Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists) are governed by what is called the Hindu Law Code, 1956. This consists of 4 laws.
- The Hindu Marriage Act (this also deals with Divorce)
- The Hindu Succession Act (this deals with Inheritance)
- The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act
- The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.
The Christians are governed by
- Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872 (this also deals with Divorce)
- Indian Succession Act of 1925 (this deals with Inheritance)
The Muslims are governed by
- THE MUSLIM PERSONAL LAW (SHARIAT) APPLICATION ACT, 1937
- Guardians and Wards Act (1890)
- The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 (passed after Shah Bano case)
- The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 (Bans talaq-e-biddat)
- THE DISSOLUTION OF MUSLIM MARRIAGESACT, 1939 (defines ground when a Muslim woman can go for a divorce)
Lets now compare rights of Hindu v/s Muslim v/s Christian Women.
- Marriage/Polygny: The Hindu and Christian laws prohibit a person from taking more than one wife or Husband. A Christian/Hindu marrying again, when the spouse is alive without taking a divorce decree from court is punishable u/s 494/495 Of IPC which prescribes 7 years Jail and/or fine. However, due to interpretations by Judiciary under the “THE MUSLIM PERSONAL LAW (SHARIAT) APPLICATION ACT, 1937” Muslim men are permitted to have 4 wives. IPC 494/495 is applicable to Muslim men if they marry a fifth wife, but if they divorce one/more wife, and bring the count to four, then nothing will happen. If a Muslima takes a second husband w/o getting divorce from first she can be tried under 494/495. Here, we see that non-Muslim law code is gender neutral and provide ample protection if the spouse remarries.
- Divorce: Hindu/Christian laws allow divorce, but only after a divorce decree is obtained from the court, and there are well defined grounds when a person can sue for divorce. Muslim men can unilaterally divorce their wives by “triple talaq”. Many people think that triple-talaq is banned by Modi Govt. But, that’s not completely true. There are 2 forms of talaq: talaq-e-biddat, talaq-e-sunnat. In the former Husband can divorce his wife by uttering the word thrice instantly-this is what Modi Govt. has banned. Where as the later form of talaq (where the husband can unilaterally divorce his wife but need to give 3 months time) is still legal. What it means is: if a Muslim husband wants to dump his wife/Children he now just needs to wait for 3 months.
- Maintenance: Hindu/Christian men are entitled to maintain their wife for the rest of her life (even after divorce/separation till the wife remarries and if the wife is not earning), and till the Son become major and Daughter gets married. Laws take care to ensure that wife and children are able to maintain the same standard of living as before. Maintenance (in the law) is defined as lodging, boarding, education, medical expenses and daughter’s marriage. But, in case of a Muslim man, he is NOT entitled to maintain his wife and Children after a divorce. They are on their own.
- Inheritance: Say a Hindu man dies. His property will be equally divided among his mother, wife and children. In case of Christian man, wife receives a fixed 1/3rd and rest is divided among children. But in case of Muslim, after a man’s death, wife receives 1/8th, father/mother will receive 1/6th each and remaining wealth will be divided among Children in such a manner that Son will receive double of the daughter. If father is not alive, even brother and sister will have share on a Man’s property. Where-as, in case of Non-Muslim siblings get a share only if parents, wife and children are not alive.
- Nikah Halala: A Hindu/Christian couple can marry freely after a divorce. But a Muslima needs to marry another man, sleep with him, obtain a divorce and they only can marry her husband.
It is clear if Hindu Law code is imposed on Christian and vice-versa, an ordinary Hindu’s or Christian’s life wont change much. And Hence, Hindus and Christians are not opposing progressive/Uniform law codes.
Now, lets understand how progressive personal law code will change the life of Muslims . And why there is objection from the Muslims.
- Due to triple-talaq, Polygamy and no provision for Maintenance, any Muslima must be staying in constant fear of her husbands/in-laws. What will be her status, if her husband gets a second wife? A Muslima/Children wont receive any Maintenance after divorce, in such case she may start begging. If progressive law code is imposed, then a Muslima will lose that fear and cannot be repressed.
- The inheritance pattern will change completely. Wife/Daughter will then have a bigger share of property of a deceased male.
- If remarriage after divorce is allowed as in case of Hindus, the Muslims earning from Nikah Halala will lose their jobs.
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