Nine out of ten Muslim women want ban on oral divorce: survey

  • Swati Goel Sharma, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 11, 2015 00:59 IST

A survey of Muslim women across 10 states has revealed that 92.1% want oral divorce to be banned. Carried out by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), the survey covered 4,700 women, mainly from low-income families.

A little over 88% said they preferred talaq-e-ahsan (where the husband pronounces talaq and abstains from physical contact with his wife for the next three months, at the end of which the marriage is valid again if he changes his mind) to oral talaq, a unilateral divorce where there is no room for reconciliation. Around 91.2% women were also against polygamy.

The survey showed whopping 95.5% women had not heard of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board – the apex body that works to protect Muslim Personal Law in the country. BMMA’s co-founder Noorjehan Safia Niaz said the findings question the validity of the board as it is not really representing the community – as opposed to what it claims.

This argument was rejected by community activist and member of the Muslim personal law board, Haroon Mozawala.

“If the women didn’t know about the board, they probably never needed to approach it. If you randomly go to slums and ask if the residents have heard of, say, the Supreme Court, chances are they wouldn’t know that too,” said Mozawala.

BMMA’s co-founder Zakia Soman, however, said, “The fact that such a high number of women were clueless of the board, only reiterates our long-pending demand and mission of doing away with the current uncodified set of rules based on the Shariat.”

The survey findings are part of a new book set to be released on Tuesday, titled ‘Seeking Justice Within Family’.

“In the book, we have developed an argument that we need a coded family law based on Quran. At present, the law is not codified and open to interpretation,” said Soman.

Of the 4,700 women interviewed, 73.1% had annual income less than 50,000. Around 78% were homemakers and 55.3% had married before 18 years of age. More than 53% said they faced domestic violence.

About the survey
The data was collected between July and December 2013, from 10 states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka

A total of 4,700 women were interviewed, mainly from low-income groups, with 73.1% of the families having an annual income of less than 50,000.

Organisation that carried out the survey:
A Muslim women-rights organisation, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has been working towards reforms in the current Muslim family law. In November, they filed a public interest litigation before the Bombay high court, challenging the ban on women from entering the inner sanctum of the iconic Haji Ali Dargah, which houses the tomb of Muslim Pir Haji Ali.

Other findings are:
* 75.5% women want the age of marriage to be above 18 years for girls and above 21 years for boys

* 88.5% want the Qazi to be punished who send the notice of oral divorce

* 93% want arbitration process to be mandatory before divorce

* 88.95 want women to retain the custody of children after divorce

* 88.3% said codification of Muslim family law will help Muslim women get justice

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