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Women hail instant Talaq Bill but toe community line while voting

While travelling through Western UP, it was felt that even though women gave a thumbs-up to the govt for its efforts to criminalise Triple Talaq, they seem unlikely to vote for the BJP.

, ET Bureau|
Apr 17, 2019, 09.35 AM IST
UP has registered the largest number of first-time voters at 54 lakh.
Nagina/Amroha/Rampur: The Triple Talaq issue might be a key highlight of the Modi government as part of its efforts to empower woman who constitute nearly 48% of the voting population of Western UP which goes to the polls on April 18 (second phase) and April 23 (third phase). But as ET travelled through Western UP, it was felt that even though women gave a thumbs-up to the government for its efforts to criminalise Triple Talaq, they seem unlikely to vote for the BJP.

Ahead of the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections in western UP, where his party is facing a tough fight with the SP-BSP-RLD coalition, PM Narendra Modi reiterated that the Triple Talaq bill will be tabled in Parliament once the BJP comes back to power.

At a public rally in Moradabad on April 15, he said: “In western UP, gundas have made the lives of women difficult... it is the Opposition’s attitude which is compelling Muslim women to suffer from Triple Talaq…On May 23, when the Modi government comes back, Triple Talaq will be tabled in Parliament.”

Just as in Parliament, where the Opposition and the Modi-led government have locked horns over the Triple Talaq bill, the issue remains locked in a gender debate at the grassroots-level (Muslim men versus Muslim women). But the issue remains in the shadows in a state where communities vote on caste and religious lines.

ET spoke to women in Nagina, Amroha and Rampur only to find that while women continue to vote in huge numbers (2014 saw 65.63% women casting their votes; there are 6.6 crore women voters in 2019), they often follow their husband’s choice of candidates.

As Sahiba Rehman (30) of Amroha puts it, “The Triple Talaq law is necessary for our security and rights in our marriages, but I will vote for only that person who is loyal to my community.” Sahiba believes that the law must not unnecessarily target Muslim men.

What Muslim Women Want
Most women ET spoke to in Nagina and Amroha saw the bill as an effort to empower women, but other concerns such as lack of jobs and women’s safety take precedence.

Rizwana Begum, 35, of Nagina whose husband is a cab driver in Hyderabad, says the bill is welcome but she is more concerned about lack of jobs due to the collapse of the local handicraft industry.

“We had a family business of ‘moti’ embroidery but had to shut it down because there were no orders. My husband and his brothers had to become cab drivers to earn money,” she says. “Triple Talaq is a domestic issue that can be resolved at several levels, but what about basic earning,” she asks.

Kaiser Jahan (45) of Noorpur in Nagina says her main concern is her 17-year-old daughter’s safety. “She had to drop out of school because her father and brothers travel for work as labourers and there was no one to accompany her to school,” she says. While she was aware of central government schemes such as the PM Awaas Yojana and the Ujjawala scheme, she says she is yet to open a bank account.

How the Law Works
Nearly 248 cases were reported in India since January 1, 2017 – mostly from UP. Local police claim that most Triple Talaq cases get registered as domestic violence cases under section 486-A. “There is an ordinance copy but most cases come as domestic squabbles over an affair, dowry or family dispute,” says a police official at Mahila Thana in Bijnor. Taking the example of a triple talaq case reported from Nagina (rural) last September –– the first since the ordinance was brought in – the official said it was a case of a ‘domestic’ squabble between a newlywed couple who did not want to live together. “We intervened and resolved the matter at the family level,” she said.

First-time Voters
The issue is finding some resonance among first-time women voters. UP has registered the largest number of first-time voters at 54 lakh.

A student of Nayab Abbasi Girls Degree College in Amroha, Adiba (21) thinks all women must back the bill. “This is one of the best things that the current government has done for us. I will consider it an issue when I cast my vote,” she says. “It will be a family decision at the end of the day, but I will put my opinion forward,” she says. Gulnashin, (20), an Mcom student in Nagina says,“Akhilesh Yadav gave us laptops in school, so I am trying to weigh our options. Triple Talaq is an important issue for muslim women as it is about equal rights.”

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