The Indian state’s polygamy ban is divisive among some Muslim women

Written by Rupam Jain

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Shiara Bano breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after a law banning polygamy was passed in her small Indian state, the culmination of years of effort including her case before the country’s Supreme Court.

“I can now say that my battle against the ancient Islamic rules regarding marriage and divorce has been won,” said Bano, a Muslim woman whose husband chose to marry two wives and divorced her three times.

“Islam has allowed a man to marry two or more wives at the same time,” she told Reuters.

But Sadaf Jaafar did not welcome the new law that abolishes practices such as polygamy and instant divorce, even though she was waging her legal battle against her husband because he married another woman without her consent.

Jaafar, who is seeking alimony to support her two children, said: “Polygamy is allowed in Islam under strict rules and regulations, but it is being abused.” She added that she did not consult Islamic scholars because she hoped that Indian courts would provide justice.

The adoption of the Uniform Civil Code in the state of Uttarakhand has opened a gap among women in India’s largest religious minority, even among some whose lives were turned upside down when their husbands entered into multiple marriages.

Some, like activist Bano, 49, are celebrating the new rulings as a long-awaited affirmation of secular law over parallel Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and succession. For others like Jaafar, Muslim politicians and Muslim scholars, this is an unwelcome ploy by the Prime Minister Narendra ModiHindu Nationalist Party.

The adoption of the law in Uttarakhand state is expected to pave the way for other states ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to follow suit, despite angry opposition from some leaders of the 200 million Muslims who make India the third largest Muslim country in the world. .

Rights in a multi-religious society

BJP leaders said the new law is a major reform, rooted in India’s 1950 Constitution, and aims to modernize personal laws for Muslims in the country and ensure full equality for women.

A 2013 survey found that 91.7% of Muslim women across the country say a Muslim man should not be allowed to have another wife while married to his first.

However, many Muslims accuse Modi’s party of pursuing a Hindu agenda that discriminates against them and imposes laws that conflict with Islam. Islamic law allows Muslim men to marry a maximum of four wives, and does not have strict rules prohibiting the marriage of underage girls.

Jaffer, who ran for office from the main opposition Congress party, describes the passage of the law as a tactic by the Modi government to cast Islam in a bad light and divert attention from pressing issues such as improving the livelihood of Muslims.

The Supreme Court in 2017 found instant Islamic divorce unconstitutional, but the order did not ban polygamy or some other practices that critics say violate women’s equal rights.

In addition to prohibiting polygamy, the new law sets the minimum age for marriage for both sexes and guarantees equal shares in ancestral property for adopted children, those born out of wedlock and those conceived via surrogate birth.

While BJP leaders and women’s rights activists say the law aims to end regressive practices, some Muslim politicians say it violates the fundamental right to practice religion.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board described the law as impractical and a direct threat to India’s multi-religious society.

“The ban on polygamy does not make any sense because the data shows that very few Muslim men have more than one wife in India,” said SKR Ilyas, an official at the board, adding that the government had no right to question the law. Islamic law.

“Islam has enough provisions to provide a decent life,” said Jafar, who lives with her two children in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. “We don’t need (the law), but what we need is quick justice for the women who are fighting for it.” “Their dignity.”

(This story has been reworded to add a dropped word in paragraph 6)

(Reporting by Rupam Jain; Editing by William Mallard)

(tags for translation)Supreme Court

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