Friday, January 6, 2012

Can Muslim Women in India live as true humans ever?

“I do live in my maternal uncle’s abode with my three children and in utmost poverty. My husband has divorced (talaq) me and has married once more,” such were the words (backed by anguishes) of Tagara Khatun, a Muslim woman of 28 years, hailing from Murshidabad (Muslim-dominated district in Bengal), who burst into tears on December 11, 2010 in packed Darbhanga Hall of University of Calcutta – all these took place in the seminar “Rights of Indian Muslim Women” organized under the auspices of Forum for Empowerment of Women in India. However, Tagara was not alone here; several others like her including Nazira Bibi, Sarbhanu Khatun, Sabina Khatun, Rahima Bibi (all divorced in recent times) were also present on the occasion.

The first part of the seminar took place under the aegis of Dr. Afroza Khatun, State Secretary of the Forum. In the introductory speech she said candidly, “Women in Muslim families remain at beck and call of their husbands and hence, they’re divorced at any time. If studies conducted in Murshidabad are taken into consideration only, such cases are in excess of 1 lakh. There is the growing need to change Muslim personal laws in India to save these hapless women.” Other noted speakers on the occasion including Malay Sengupta, Ex-judge, Dr. Alauddin, Dr. Sohrab Hossain, eminent social activists like Keshowar Zahan, Zahed Akhtar, were witnessed to emphasize the absence of equal rights in properties for Muslim women, put an end to reprehensible Hinna marriage and introduce Muslim Adoption Law.

Whether all these would take place is not known yet but the issue refuses to end here.   Even if aspirations are strong, chances of success do remain bleak.  And such a statement is surely not unfounded. In accordance with pundits, all of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are monotheistic religions, thoroughly patriarchal and known worldwide for contempt of their own women. A few Islamic scholars have been waging struggles to portray Mohammed as a supporter of women rights in Islam; but there are also facts (authentic) that he was instrumental to saint women's inequality and inferior status in absolute Quranic law. Muslims all over accept these edicts as the surefire word of God.

Here are some excerpts:

 "Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because men spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those among you who fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them." Sura 4:34

"...Women shall with justice have rights similar to those exercised against them, although men have a status above women. God is mighty and wise." Sura 2:228.

Some other facts hidden thus far must also be mulled over. As per Shari'a - Islamic law, it is possible for any Muslim man to have four wives at the same instant and what’s more, he can divorce anyone through saying I divorce you" three times. On the contrary, it is highly difficult for any Muslim woman to have divorce. As per the reigning divorce law in the Islamic society, if divorced, fathers get custody of boys over the age of six and girls on the beginning of youth. All these make one realize – if a Muslim woman gets divorce even, it turns out to be a pyrrhic victory for her altogether. She loses her own children.   

There are other facts too. As per Shari'a, recompense for the murder of a woman is half the amount of a man. Again, while a woman's witness in court is worth only half of a man's, she is entitled to only half the inheritance of males. On the word of Sura 4:34, men are granted superiority and authority over women since they spend their wealth to keep them up.

These rigid principles do belong to a religion having substantial influence on a large section of global populace. Can this humongous obstacle be broken in India? Can Indian Muslim have cherished freedom ever?

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