On July 30, the Rajya Sabha gave its nod to the controversial Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019. This bill has already been cleared by the Lok Sabha or lower house and now just needs Presidential assent before being formally considered an Act.
But the passage of this bill that primarily concerns itself with the criminalisation of the practice of Triple Talaq was not devoid of drama. If the Lok Sabha saw Hyderabad MP Asauddin Owaisi showcasing exactly how the bill actually did very little for the women it hopes to protect, there was a walkout by BJP allies JD (U) and AIADMK when the bill was presented before the Rajya Sabha. While there were 99 votes in favour, there were 84 votes against the passage of the bill. 5 Congress MPs abstained from voting despite being issued a whip by none other than Congress Parliamentary Party leader Sonia Gandhi. In fact, poor floor management by a disunited opposition appears to be as much to blame for the passage of the bill as the determination of the regime to further is divisive and openly anti-minority agenda.
Key criticisms of the bill can be summarised as follows: The bill fails to take into account the plight of the woman who will be forced to depend on her potentially vindictive in-laws while her husband serves his jail sentence. While the bill has a provision for payment of subsistence allowance (amount to be determined by a Magistrate) for herself and her children, it fails to realise that the husband who is expected to pay the allowance will be incarcerated and therefore unlikely to be able to pay the said allowance. When it comes to all other religions, marriage and divorce are treated as a civil matter, but only Muslim personal law provisions are being bent to turn divorce into a criminal matter The provision to criminalise divorce can be used against Muslim men to target them. n