Shayara Bano, the woman behind the triple talaq revolution
When the debate over triple talaq reached the Supreme Court last year for the first time, it made headlines. The person behind the case having reached the SC is Shayara Bano. The divorced mother of two who used to be dependent on her husband was an unlikely candidate to challenge religious laws. But she did, and she won, and how. Here's her story!
Shayara from Kashipur (Uttarakhand) had a rough marriage. She was tormented for dowry, was forced to abort six times, and her husband Rizwan Ahmed constantly threatened to divorce her. In October'15, when she was at her mother's place, she suddenly received a talaq letter from Rizwan. He then took away their kids. In the aftermath, Shayara had a nervous breakdown and suffered from depression.
In February'16, Shayara filed a petition in the SC against triple talaq, polygamy and nikah halala, all accepted practices in Islam. It is notable that she challenged instant triple talaq and not triple talaq itself; according to the Quran, the three utterances can be spread over 90 days. This was the first time a Muslim woman challenged religious laws citing constitutional fundamental rights.
The path wasn't easy for Shayara, her mother Feroza Begum, father Iqbal Ahmed and her brothers. Arshad, one of her brothers, said the Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had even filed a petition against them "saying we are going against the rules of Islam".
Another of her brothers, Shakil, roped in lawyer Balaji Srinivasan for the case. "For me, the fundamental rights of an individual are sacrosanct," Srinivasan says. "When I started the research for this case, I knew it would be a big one, but even I never thought it would become so big." Delhi-based lawyers Arunava Mukherjee and Amit Chadha are supporting the petitioners.
During the journey, several activists joined in. The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan launched a campaign against triple talaq. The AIMPLB actively opposed changes. But over a million Muslims had signed a petition by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (an RSS affiliate) against triple talaq. Meanwhile, Atiya Sabri, Aafreen Rehman, Gulshan Parween and Ishrat Jahan knocked on courts' doors with their own stories of suffering.
Now the SC has banned the practice and asked the government to form relevant laws. This could be the tipping point for abolishment of religious laws and ushering in of a Uniform Civil Code. On the other hand, it could lead to mass protests like 1985. What happens remains to be seen. But today marked a major victory in the fight for women's rights.