Women’s rights activists ask the Prime Minister why he did not talk of wider concerns of equality

Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming out strongly against the practice of immediate divorce or triple talaq in some Muslim communities had women’s rights activists asking why he had not talked of wider concerns of equality.
On Monday, the Prime Minister addressed the ‘Bundelkhand Parivartan’ rally, which was seen as an election rally of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
With the State heading to polls in 2017, Mr. Modi spoke out against triple talaq , saying that it was ruining the lives of Muslim women. Though his government’s stand against the practice has been clear, as seen in the affidavit it filed in the Supreme Court recently, this was the first time the Prime Minister was so vocal about the issue.
“Real equality”
Ranjana Kumari, a women’s rights activist and the director of the Centre for Social Research, said, while she welcomed Mr. Modi’s opposition to triple talaq , issues of “real equality” had not been touched upon.
“The women’s rights movement has been asking for all personal laws to be abolished. These laws are inherently patriarchal. Whether it is Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jain, personal laws discriminate against women,” she said.
Referring to the Women’s Reservation Bill that has been pending in Parliament for six years, she said, “If women were better represented in Parliament, these laws would have been repealed long ago.”
‘BJP issue’
Other activists said the Prime Minister jumping into the debate, which was reignited last year when the Supreme Court started hearing a matter on triple talaq , could actually hurt the cause.
“For the Prime Minister to make this an election issue, it makes it harder for the Muslim women leading the fight against triple talaq . They have to fight this battle with the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board as it is and then the perception that it’s a ‘BJP issue’,” said Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of the All-India Progressive Women’s Association.
She added that though triple talaq should be abolished, any change would come only because Muslim women’s groups had been fighting for it.
‘Sex-selective abortions’
“What about Hindu women’s right to inherit property? The law is in place, but it is being violated. What about the injustice meted out to women in Muzaffarnagar and Gujarat. The Prime Minister’s silence on these issues exposed a blatant double standard,” said Ms. Krishnan.
Though Mr. Modi did appeal to the media to stop making triple talaq a “Hindu-Muslim” issue and he came out against sex-selective abortions by Hindus, activists maintained that his speech ended up isolating Muslims.
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which has told the Supreme Court that though triple talaq is a sin, it is permissible within sharia , said that the Prime Minister had given the debate a political colour.
Kamal Faruqui, a member of the AIMPLB, said that if the Prime Minister was serious about equality for women, he should have spoken about a “divorce Act applicable across religions”.
“Using an election platform to talk of social reform is not right. The Prime Minister has politicised the issue. We are not bothered about politics, but we are concerned about our future generations,” he said.
He added that the AIMPLB was “open to social reform” and had come up with a model nikahnama, or marriage contract, that protects the rights of women in cases of dispute or divorce.