April 07, 2016

India: Court lifts barriers to women’s entry to temples, now ban triple talaq too (Edit, The Times of India, 4 april 2016)

The Times of India

End discrimination: Court lifts barriers to women’s entry to temples, now ban triple talaq too
April 4, 2016, 5:53 am IST in TOI Editorials | Edit Page, India

The Indian Constitution outlaws gender discrimination, and the Bombay high court has done well to uphold this principle on the issue of women’s entry to temples. The Maharashtra government too endorses this stand. It should now enforce the rule of law and ensure that the gates of the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar, among others, are open to women. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has decided to hear a plea by Shayara Bano, a Muslim woman from Uttarakhand. This will be a litmus test of whether gender discrimination, on the basis of patriarchal interpretation of religion, can be permitted in India.
Bano’s petition argues that divorce through triple talaq should be declared unconstitutional as it allowed some Muslim men to treat women like “chattel”. In response to the Supreme Court’s directive, the Centre will have to place before it the report of a high level UPA-era committee which sought a ban on the practice of oral, unilateral and triple talaq, as well as polygamy. Commissioned by the ministry of woman and child development in 2012, the report recommended specific amendments to the Muslim Marriages Act 1939 and suggested mandatory maintenance to the wife and children in cases of divorce or separation.
These recommendations are sensible and must be accepted. Triple talaq has after all also been banned in Muslim countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia and Bangladesh. While religious freedom must be protected, personal laws must also conform to minimum standards of justice and fair play. Vice-President Hamid Ansari wondered aloud last Saturday “whether a more complete separation of religion and politics might not better serve Indian democracy”. While the wider demand for a uniform civil code needs broader consensus and debate as well as a conducive and non-threatening atmosphere, equality for women in all religions should be non-negotiable.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.