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‘If a man can do it, why can't I?’: turning the tables on India's instant divorce law

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As India debates the validity of a law allowing men to divorce by uttering three words, one woman is blazing a trail by using the practice against her husband

 

As dusk was falling, Amreen Begum’s husband bundled her into his auto-rickshaw together with their two young children. He dumped them beside some wheat fields outside Meerut, a city 70km north-east of India’s capital, New Delhi.

“He didn’t even bother going the extra 2km up to my parents’ home,” says Begum.
She knew it was only a matter of time before her husband called or texted her to utter the words “talaq, talaq, talaq”, the instant and unilateral divorce available only to Muslim men.

Rather than wait for her life to be left in tatters, Begum, 25, did the unthinkable. Last week, after reporting her husband for domestic violence, she stood outside Meerut police station in Uttar Pradesh state and shouted the phrase herself, along with his name.

Begum is believed to be the first woman in India to have used the triple talaq to divorce her husband. In the process, she has opened a new front in the campaign to end the practice, which is allowed in India under Islamic law.

“I have divorced him. If a man can divorce his wife that way, why can’t a woman? Don’t I have the same right? Am I less human than he is?” she says.
Over the past few years, Muslim women have been agitating against the triple talaq, the sharia law that allows men to divorce their wives – frequently leaving them destitute – with a simple statement.

As dusk was falling, Amreen Begum’s husband bundled her into his auto-rickshaw together with their two young children. He dumped them beside some wheat fields outside Meerut, a city 70km north-east of India’s capital, New Delhi.

“He didn’t even bother going the extra 2km up to my parents’ home,” says Begum.

She knew it was only a matter of time before her husband called or texted her to utter the words “talaq, talaq, talaq”, the instant and unilateral divorce available only to Muslim men.

Rather than wait for her life to be left in tatters, Begum, 25, did the unthinkable. Last week, after reporting her husband for domestic violence, she stood outside Meerut police station in Uttar Pradesh state and shouted the phrase herself, along with his name.

While at the police station divorcing her husband, she also filed a complaint against him for the beatings she endured, usually over demands for more dowry. She urged that he pay income support to help raise the children.

With Begum’s sister Farheen having suffered a similar fate, the siblings’ elderly parents now have their daughters and grandchildren living with them, stretching meagre resources.

“Muslim women won’t take it any more,’’ Begum says. “It has to stop. I am now penniless. My father runs a tiny shop in the village and he has to support us all now. How can the law allow this?”

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan has launched a campaign to end triple talaq. Noor Jehan, the organisation’s co-convenor, says she supports Begum’s action as a show of defiance and hopes it will illustrate the fury of Muslim women over triple talaq.

 “It’s inevitable this would happen. How much can a woman take? All over India women are coming out to tell their stories and say it’s enough,” she says.

 

 



 


BBC News, 15/05/2017

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