India: AIDWA response to Muslim Personal Law Board (MPLB) recommendations

South Asia Citizen's Wire
The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has noted that the Board has made recommendations which have started the process of discussions, change, codification and reform in Muslim Personal Laws.
While the document - the Model Nikahnama finalized by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board - falls short of the democratic demands made by the reformist sections within the community as well as democratic organizations including women's organisations, undoubtedly it is a step in forward.
The Board has also made amendments to its earlier draft including exclusion of its outrageous sanction to child marriage.

It has rightly demanded that no State Government deprive Muslim women of their equal right to agricultural land.

However its insistence on the demand for official constitution of Sharia courts has to be rejected outright.

The Board has condemned the practice of triple talaq at one sitting. It has recommended that after the first talaq a minimum time period of three months is required before the second talaq.

The Board has made it incumbent on those who are having their marriage conducted on the basis of this Nikahnama to go in for arbitration and discussion While this falls far short of the democratic demand for the banning of triple talaq it is a small step forward.

As far as payment of Meher is concerned, the Board has included an unambiguous statement that it has to be made. Only a part of the payment can be deferred at the time of marriage. Of course, it would have been even better if the entire payment was made compulsory at that time.

It is extremely unfortunate that the Board has not made an outright ban on polygamy. Polygamy is not acceptable in any circumstances. However in contrast to the earlier draft the Board has made minor concessions to this demand by preventing the untrammeled right to more than one marriage by instructions to the Kazi performing the marriage that in the case of a second marriage whether after a divorce or a polygamous marriage, if the husband is not fulfilling the responsibilities and just behaviour enjoined upon him i.e. with regard to his children and to his first wife, then he should refuse to proceed with the ceremony.

AIDWA had demanded that the woman's right to ask for a divorce (Khula) and to include the right to deferred divorce; Talaz-e-Tafwiz; be included in the Nikahnama. Unfortunately, this has not been done but members of the Board have made a categorical statement that if any women want to include this right it is in keeping with Shariat and they must be allowed to do so.

It is essential that the recommendations are not accepted as the last word. Using the space provided by the discussions, reformists in the community and women's organizations will have to build a strong movement to force the MPLB for further reform. AIDWA will be writing to the AIMPLB about its response.

Subhashini Ali (Pres.), Brinda Karat (Vice-Pres), S.Sudha (Gen.Secy) Anwara (Member)