At a press conference on Saturday, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a Muslim women's rights group, said that it will be reviving its demand for a ban on polygamy and halala that were not taken up by the Supreme Court while deciding their plea on the ban on Triple Talaq.
The group was party to the Triple Talaq judgement given by the Supreme Court that banned the practise of instant triple talaq. The group also demanded the codification of Muslim personal law and that the marriage age in the community be as per the Prevention of Child Marriage Act (PCMA). The press conference was held at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh and was attended by Tushar Gandhi and volunteers of the BMMA.
"We will revive the demand to ban polygamy and halala, which were not dealt with by the Supreme Court while dealing with Triple Talaq in our petition. We will approach the court to take up the same petition. If they want us to file a fresh one, we will do that too. If polygamy cannot be banned, we demand that section 494 of the IPC be applicable to Muslims and PCMA on marriage age. A comprehensive codification of Muslim Personal law is our first demand," said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of BMMA.
Section 494 of the IPC makes marriage with another person while already married a punishable crime. Halala is a practise where a woman has to consummate her marriage with another man if she wants to get back to her husband from an earlier marriage post-divorce. "When instances of underage marriage are taken to the police, they turn us away, saying that it is allowed as per our personal law. We want a categorical mention in PCMA that Muslims are also covered to stop underage marriages," said Noorjehan.
Volunteers said that underage marriage was leading to health complications for girls themselves and their children that they were not adept at handling. Polygamy, on the other hand, was leading to depression and feelings of committing suicide, which in turn affected the upbringing of children.
"I was 14 when I got married off. When my husband died, since I was educated only till the seventh standard, there were a lot of problems in bringing up my children," said Nargis Tariq from Vasai, emphasising the need for education before marriage. "Men often cheat for second marriages. Neither the first nor the second wife is aware of his existing marriage status. In such cases, women get depressed and some even feel like committing suicide," said Sana Patel, an activist.
The group said that, as per a survey done by them in 2015, nearly 92 percent did not want their husband to remarry and 75 percent wanted girls to be over 18 for marriage. On voices that the community is already being targeted for its practices, Noorjehan said, "We will raise issues with whichever government listens to us. In a democratic structure, we have to go to parliament. It is their job to make laws. We will approach parliament no matter who is in power. Both sides have exploited the community. When every other religious law is codified, why should that not be the case with Muslims? It is about the dignity of women that is guaranteed under the Constitution and Quran."
Holding placards of right to childhood and codification of a constitutional right, women sought that misinformation about religious laws needed to be countered. "Misinformation was spread that Muslim men would be thrown in jail if an instant Triple Talaq law was made. What has instead happened is that people now fear, and even Qazis fear, annulling marriages in that way. Now when we go around, the instances have dropped," said Khatoon Shaikh, BMMA Maharashtra president.
"I have come here to support my sisters. They have a right to choose how to live their lives and what to wear," said Tushar Gandhi.
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