India runs on Constitution, not on shariat; triple talaq should be outlawed: Naqvi
Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Friday he wants the controversial practice of triple talaq to be abolished as it infringes upon the right to equality of women and puts them at a severe disadvantage. Naqvi was speaking at the first edition Mail Today's Femail Summit, a conclave dedicated to the women of the nation.
The triple talaq is a Sharia law practice which allows men to end a marriage, simply by saying "talaq" to their wives three times in succession.
While many Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia have outlawed the custom for years, India- home to the world's third-largest Muslim population- continues to allow it. The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions opposing triple talaq, after women complained that they had been divorced via Facebook and WhatsApp. "I am not a talaq specialist. I have never done talaq and I don't intend to do it ever," Naqvi said in a light-hearted way to begin with, coming to the more serious aspects of the instant divorce custom that the Narendra Modi government has promised to do away with, an attitude that has caused consternation among the more conservative sections of Muslim society and the clerics in particular.
Several political observers have pointed out that the BJP garnered a massive chunk of votes from Muslim women that, among other things, accounted for its sweeping majority in the UP Assembly polls this year. "Our Constitution guarantees gender equality and a sweeping equality for all: high and low, man and woman. This right to equality must be held sacrosanct for all and all must respect it. This nation runs on a Constitution, not on shariat or any other religious textbook. This practice is inhuman, unconstitutional and is a social evil," Naqvi said.
'TRIPLE TALAQ, A SOCIAL EVIL'
The senior minister of the Modi council, who has held several party positions too in the past, put forth before the audience a kind of "secular" argument in favour of the abolition of this "social evil" as he called it. "This country has not seen socio-religious reforms for the first time. Child marriage was abolished. Even then naysayers had cried 'religion in danger' and that it was tinkering with the religious sentiments of the people. They said it must not be abolished as it was part of established tradition dating back to hundreds of years, but it happened. Similarly, when sati was abolished, a section said it was an attack on religious sentiments of people. A big campaign too was launched against the move, but it was made illegal. In the same way, triple talaq too must be abolished and a positive step should be taken towards social reform."
The national Law Commission last year sought public views on whether to abolish the custom, triggering a debate between politicians and religious leaders. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a non-governmental body which oversees the application of Muslim personal law, has resisted any ban on triple talaq while arguing that this is a religious matter and not for the courts. Naqvi also made a strong pitch for reservation for women in educational institutions.
"We are in the process of opening nearly 100 schools on the lines of 'Navodaya Vidyalayas' across the nation for minorities where 50 per cent of the seats would be reserved for girls. Of all the scholarships given by my ministry, we have reserved 40 per cent for the girl child. We have ensured that all skilling programmes that we run, through NGOs or as government enterprise, have at least 40 per cent of participation from women. There are schemes in which minorities have 75 per cent job reservation and we have ensured that 50 per cent of these go to women." Talking about the skilling initiatives of the ministry, Naqvi said the motto was Madad Hamari, Manzil Aapki (our help, your ambition).
"In the past three years we have tried for bringing about empowerment without appeasement as the Narendra Modi government is committed to bring happiness and prosperity for everyone who is poor. The next motto is Education, Employment and Empowerment. This is what we are doing and intend to further do for mainstreaming the minorities in India."