Murshidabad’s Young Divorcees Battle Apathy And Penury

Murshidabad’s Young Divorcees Battle Apathy And Penury
Women activists are giving voice to women whose lives were destroyed after they were given oral triple talaq.

Murshidabad: Hena Khatun’s bridal sari is now a stark reminder of a short lived marriage.

She was married at the age of 14 to a mason in Murshidabad district, West Bengal. Her husband sent her back to her parents’ home after two months. She was too young to understand and articulate her pain.

Two years later, at the age of 16, Hena was divorced by her husband through oral triple talaq – a system of instant divorce. Muslim personal law allows the husband to divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq thrice. A similar right does not exist for the woman.

Hena said, “He was having an affair with another girl. My parents had so much hope that we would be happy. ”

Her bridal sari is the only item that she was able to recover from her husband’s house.

“My parents gave them Rs 1 lakh and they did not return it. They said if we dared to file a case, we would lose any chance of getting back the money,” says she.

Hena is now 17. She has rejoined school, and studies in class 9.

Her schoolmate Seema Khatun, who is from the same village, Sarangpur, in Murshidabad district, is another victim of the practice of instant divorce.

“My husband said he didn’t want anything. But later he got greedy. My in-laws began to torture me. Seeing my suffering, my father brought me back home. I decided to study and had rejoined school when my divorce happened. I could not clear my exams because of the stress,” she says.

The two girls hope by completing their education they can fend for themselves.  Their fathers work as agricultural labour and own no land.  Their poverty makes them vulnerable to traffickers who dupe girls like them with the promise of marriage or a job.

Women activists are giving voice to women whose lives were destroyed after they were given oral triple talaq. In every village there are 10 to 15 women who have been divorced or driven out of their marital homes.

Khadija Banu, secretary of the Rokeya Nari Unnayan Samiti, says triple talaq and polygamy must be declared unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court recently admitted a petition by a Muslim woman, Shayara Bano, stating that polygamy and oral triple talaq violate fundamental human rights, and hence are unconstitutional.

Several Islamic countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia have banned triple talaq.

In India, political parties have been reluctant to take up this controversial issue, fearing it would upset clerics and influential Muslim organisations.  Muslims make up 14 percent of the population in the country and are a powerful vote bank. In West Bengal, Muslims comprise 27 per cent of the population.

A majority of the divorcees were married as children and it is common to find they have only studied till class 8. Clearly it compounds their feeling of disempowerment.

Uliya Khatoon, 27, has a disability. Her feet were malformed at birth. But instead of giving her special care, her husband divorced her three years after marriage.

“After my husband remarried, he beat me up and threw me out of the house,” she says. Ms Khatoon returned with her two year old son to her parents’ home. Her brothers gave her a small kuchcha or temporary room where they have been staying for the last eight years.

She does not get any maintenance from her former husband, she gets a disability pension of Rs 600 a month from the government.

“I face problems in paying for my son’s education, to buy my clothes and even to buy food. From spinning yarn, I earn about Rs 20 a day. I would like the government to give me assistance. I am expecting it to give me a house.”

She has been selected as a beneficiary of the Gitanjali scheme for housing economically weaker sections, including the minority community. It entitles her to a sum of Rs 70,000.

Ms Bhanu says there are a number of schemes that could help destitute women, but they are either unaware of these or do not know how to access them.

She adds, “There are schemes as well as scholarships for the minority sections, such as the Muslim Women Empowerment Scheme. Loans with minimal interest are given. The problem actually is due to the politics amongst those who are supposed provide the loans. The Panchayat gives money to people aligned with them and leaves out the most vulnerable.”

According to Dilruba Sarkar, Secretary, Arena NGO, “The government needs to do more monitoring as well as more awareness building. Murshidabad is a Muslim dominated district. It has the maximum number of cases of trafficking, of child marriage and child labour. But even after 68 years of independence, there is little awareness creation at the grassroot level.”

In this election season, the question is will these women’s challenges be on the political radar?

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  6. I see women activist fighting for creating rules, giving protection and leaving tools in hand of many women who use it without knowing the impact. Mere shortsightedness. I grew up with my parents always together. They did fight in early days but that is immaturity everyone has. I end up as victim of rules created by Indian law and women/lawyers/police/judges only focus on misguiding and making short term money. What is the outcome of such rules which is making society crippled. My kids wants to stay with both parents but we are helpless as things have become dirty, cases after cases, criminal, civil and what not. Lawyers for pennies misguide the ladies and even if they want they cannot come out of it. Worst is they guide children to be misfed as they need to say what lawyer has asked to be written in petition. Poor kids they dont even know who to believe but they end up following this with heart full of hatred about both, anger, feeling of helplessness without anything they own. I dont know what future they could bring in. Those in pain are also small girls, women, grand mothers, relative but social activitist dont care. They along with bunch of selfish lawyers got their pie in publicity and in that cursed the Indian culture and out well knit societies. As part of the process what is the state of women…. 5-10 years fighting in court, youth lost in running along with black coat, instead of helping children live a happy life. After divorce trying to live a socially aloof life. I know many women who wear bindi and sindoor to show they are married. Later both man and women try to search for another partner and situation is child has multiple father and multiple mother and no one is where he can cry. Today my wife and my parents are there to support me but who will support my kids when they need. Lawyer?, social activist? Constitution? No one…. they will only say these kids are behaving because of disturbed childhood and brush their hand… where are we going….

  7. Priya: Have you read Shariah Law? If you don’t have any knowledge about Shariah, please keep your mouth shut. Many of the Shariah laws are now being implemented in India, for example, Alcohol ban, rights of women in Parents property and many more. So you better study Islam first and then comment. Sarojini Naidu once said that it is Islam that has given Democracy to the world and equal rights to Women.

    • 48000 applications are pending in Gujarat courts for converting to Islam, they include young university student, PhD students, teachers etc. but Gujarat govt. is holding those applications for no reason. This will open your eyes to fact that is truth and will stay to the end of this world.

  8. Jinhe Naaz hai hind pe wo hi to ye kar rahe hain, Neer saheb. Hind par naaz karna bahut aasan hai. Sahi kaam karna bahut mushkil to sab aasan hi kar lete haine.

  9. This is nothing. Go to Andhra and cover news about young Muslim girls being literally sold to 40, 50 year old sheikhs for money, but all in the name of marriage. Mid-Day mumbai did some cover stories on it few years ago, but main stream media thinks of it as Muslim issue rather than human rights and ignores these victims, which it would cover in any other religion.

  10. I am a Muslim and ashamed at the activities of these misogynist men. Triple Talaq is not even allowed in Islam, it has to be done over a period of time allowing the women to pass the period of iddah and there are stringent requirements for Talaq namely when one cannot continue to stay with each other or it must be resorted to only in extreme cases of necessity, and that too following certain stringent procedures and conditions. These men are illiterate people who do not have an in-depth knowledge of Islam, hence they have a tendency to believe that saying Talaq three time would annul the marital relationship. In case they want to break they have to have proper procedure of divorce or talaq. If the groom divorces, he has to pay the half of the mahr and return any gifts that he received from the bride’s family unless they do not want him to do so. There might be other marriage expenses and matters that they have to resolve with mutual agreement or through legal proceedings. The bride does not have to observe any `iddah or post-divorce waiting period if the marriage was not consummated. The wife can seek divorce from her husband through khul`, but if he refuses to grant her request then she can seek the dissolution of marriage through the court of law. The Shari`ah has not given the right to a woman to divorce her husband, because only the husband has all the financial obligations of the family. After divorce he will be responsible to provide her maintenance during her `iddah and if there are any children in the family then he will be responsible for their expenses. Thus to grant her that right equally with the husband while she has no financial obligation is unfair and unjust. The wife can, however, divorce her husband if her husband gave her that right either at the time of marriage or afterwards.

    A husband who wants to divorce his wife should use the words of divorce with full awareness after much deliberation and consideration and possibly discussions with his-her elders. Using the words of divorce in haste or anger is not right. The proper procedure is to give divorce when a woman is not pregnant and is not going through her monthly menstrual cycle. Divorce can take place by saying one time “I have divorced you” (talluqtuki) or “You are divorced” (anti taliq). After this the women should spend the time of her `iddah. During the period of `iddah the husband can cancel his divorce and can resume the matrimonial relationship, but if it does not happen then the divorce takes effect and at the end of the `iddah period their marriage ends. There is no need to repeat the words of divorce more than once. Even one divorce is sufficient to terminate the relationship.

    Hope the elders give these men some thought for food, how will they bear the pain of Grave and hell for doing injustice to their wives.

    • Wonderful writing friend. Why dont you write an article. A movement needs to be started by the people of Muslim faith. If we start or Government tries to do Muslim brethren takes it as an ego and protests just for ego. No one is ready to think otherwise. Clerics on the other hand takes full advantage as most of the Muslim does not read their Holy book as a result does not know the law.

    • The constitution of India needs to protect these women and not some random elders of the community who might have been part of the perpetrators themselves. All religions have historically denied equal rights to women and the society across the world has overcome this discrimination by adopting uniform civil rights through a constitution to protect women’s rights to education, marital equality and property rights. It is the responsibility of Muslim community to denounce any leader who opposes removal of Sharia laws. You need to step up to help your community progress by adopting constitution of India that provides EQUALITY irrespective of the gender. Also, shame on all Muslim men and women who support sharia laws that were written in the middle ages and then cry out loud that Muslim community is backward in India.

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