Controversial triple divorce bill creates parliamentary logjam in India

Activists of Women India Movement (WIM) shout slogans as they hold placards against proposed 'Triple Talaq Bill' during a protest in New Delhi on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 01 January 2019

Controversial triple divorce bill creates parliamentary logjam in India

  • Opposition parties demand that the bill first go to committee for review
  • The bill has been passed by ruling party Lok Sabha of the parliament’s lower house and awaits endorsement from the upper house

NEW DELHI: The upper house of the Indian parliament was adjourned on Monday after a logjam between the government and the opposition parties on the issue of the triple talaq criminalization bill (where divorce is verbally pronounced thrice by a man).

Last Thursday, the lower house of parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed the controversial Muslim women’s rights protection bill of 2018 with a sweeping majority.

The bill, popularly known as the triple talaq (divorce) bill, criminalizes “instant divorce,” the practice in which Muslim men can divorce by simply saying the word three times. 

The bill implies jail time for any man found guilty of divorcing verbally if a complaint is filed by any of the wife’s relatives.

On Monday, the government wanted to introduce the bill in the upper house, but the opposition-dominated house wants the bill to go to a select committee for thorough deliberation before it is brought to the floor of the house.

“It has been a convention since 1993 that every bill goes to a select committee of parliamentarians for scrutiny before it is introduced in the house,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader and opposition leader in the upper house.

“The bill is very crucial and requires further scrutiny. More than half of members of several parties have demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee,” said Azad.

“The bill is an important legislation that can either positively or negatively affect the lives of millions of people and so it has to be referred to a joint select committee,” said the opposition leader.

On Monday, the logjam continued into the afternoon, after which the presiding officer decided to adjourn the house until Wednesday. 

In a signed letter, 14 opposition parties asked the upper house chairman, Venkaiah Naidu, to send the bill to the committee.

One of the signatories of the letter is the ruling party in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which happens to be an important regional ally of the BJP.

“The government is ready for a discussion on the issue and the congress is creating hurdles for the legislation,” alleged Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijay Goel in the upper house.

“Congress and other parties are only playing politics on this issue, which is very important for ensuring the rights of married Muslim women,” the minister added.

Shaista Amber, the president of the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, who is one of the votaries of the bill, says that “sending the bill to the select committee might stop it being passed in future.”

“You need some kind of deterrence to dissuade men from divorcing their wives, though I don’t favor criminalization of the civil law,” Amber told Arab News.

Anwar Sadat of the Indian Society of International Law, a New Delhi-based research institute, said that “if the triple talaq bill is passed in the present form, then it would adversely affect Muslim society.”

He said: “The idea is not only to polarize the Muslim society but also the larger Indian society on a religious issue.” 

Zafarul Islam, chairman of the Delhi Minority Commission, said that “the BJP thinks it can wean away certain section of Muslim women by talking about the triple talaq.”

“Otherwise, the fact that a party renowned for its anti-Muslim rhetoric should focus so much on the bill is sheer politics,” opines Islam.

Political analyst Satish Mishra of the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, said, “It’s a political move with the aim of getting votes from among the Muslim minority, particularly women.”

“The primary aim is to divide the society in the name of Hindu and Muslims,” added Mishra. “The opposition has a valid point that you cannot make divorce a criminal offense.” 

“If it has to be this way, then why only Muslims? Why not Hindus, why not other communities? In my opinion, the BJP’s argument may not cut much ice with the larger electorate, but it may convince their core Hindu constituency. I feel that the party’s attempt to portray the main opposition Congress Party as a pro-minority group may also not carry weight because most of the opposition parties also disapprove this Bill.”

Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

Updated 17 January 2020

Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

  • Identified Sudan as most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world
  • According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile

LONDON: Nearly a quarter of the world’s nations witnessed a rise in unrest and violence in 2019 with the figure expected to rise in 2020, according to a study released earlier this week.

Verisk Maplecroft, a socio-economic and political analysis company, said in its index of global civil unrest that 47 of the world’s 195 countries were affected and that the number could hit 75 in the year ahead.

The UK-based consultancy firm identified Sudan as the most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world, which had previously been held by Yemen.

According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile and neither is expected to be “at peace” for at least two years its researchers claim.

“The reasons for the surge in violent unrest are complex and diverse. In Hong Kong, protests erupted in June 2019 over a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, However, the root cause of discontent has been the rollback of civil and political rights since 1997,” the firm said.

“In Chile, protests have been driven by income inequality and high living costs but were triggered by a seemingly trivial 30-peso (USD0.04) increase in the price of metro tickets,” it added.

Other countries now considered hotbeds unrest include Lebanon, Nigeria and Bolivia. Asia and Africa are disproportionately represented with countries such as Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe also coming under the “extreme risk” label.

Since authoritarian leader Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in April, Sudan was gripped by protests, violence and killings as armed forces battled democracy supporters for control of the new government.

The index predicts that a further 28 countries examined will see a “deterioration in stability,” suggesting that nearly 40% of all countries will witness disruption and unrest at some point in 2020.

Ukraine, Guinea Bissau and Tajikistan are all expected to see the sharpest rises in unrest, but the report highlights growing concern in the world’s biggest and most powerful countries as well.

Countries identified include the hugely influential nations of Russia, China, Turkey, Brazil and Thailand.

Maplecroft says there will be increased pressure on global firms to exercise corporate responsibility, especially those in countries “rich in natural resources where mining and energy projects often need high levels of protection.”

“However, companies are at substantial danger of complicity if they employ state or private security forces that perpetrate violations,” the report added.