India: Shayara Bano has urged the court to declare that triple talaq, nikah - halala (a practice where divorced women, in case they want to go back to their husbands, have to consummate a second marriage) and polygamy are illegal and in violation of Articles 14 (equality before law), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, place of birth), 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution. Her younger brother, Arshad Ali, is leading the battle from the front, with the support of Delhi-based lawyers Balaji Srinivasan, Arunava Mukherjee and Amit Chadha. This is the first time the issue has gained such widespread attention.
Shayara, a mother to a 14-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, both of whom are away from her, in her husband’s custody, said: “Soon after the wedding, they started demanding a four-wheeler and more money. But that wasn’t the only problem. From the very beginning, my husband would threaten to give me talaq each time he found some fault with me. For the first two years of marriage, when I didn’t bear a child, my mother-in-law would egg him on to divorce me.” Her husband, Rizwan, a property dealer based in Allahabad, UP, didn’t allow Shayara to visit her sister, who lives within a half-hour distance from her house in Allahabad. She lost count of the number of abortions she was forced to undergo by Rizwan. “Six or seven times maybe. I would often plead with him to allow me to undergo tubectomy, but he wouldn’t relent,” she says.
The rules for "triple divorce" vary according to country but there are few absolutes:
- Iddah and Rujuu (After divorce women cannot marry for three menstrual cycles to ensure that she is not pregnant (iddah). During this period, her husband can call off the divorce and take her back (rujuu).)
- Eelaa (If the husband swears an oath not to have sexual intercourse with his wife (eelaa) then there is a waiting period of four months. If he changes his mind within the four months, then the marriage continues. At the end of the four months, he must either return to his wife or divorce her.)
- Nikah halala (And if he has divorced her [for the third time], then she is not lawful to him afterward until [after] she marries a husband other than him. And if the latter husband divorces her [or dies], there is no blame upon the woman and her former husband for returning to each other if they think that they can keep [within] the limits of Allah.)
Shayara Bano, one of three sisters and a brother, was born and brought up in this town bordering the Jim Corbett National Park. Their father, Iqbal Ahmad, works in the cantonment of Hempur Daya, a wooded area where the animals from the Park often wander out and greet the locals. Shayara is the most educated in the family because she is a post-graduate in sociology and she had ambition to teach.
If the court rules in her favour, holding triple talaq to be null and void, she will be faced with making a call on whether she wants to go back to Allahabad. “I might go back, for the sake of my children, that is, if he shows an inclination to change,” she says.
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