Muslim Women’s Rights and Media Coverage

This is an issue covered by an article by Flavia Agnes, which addresses the issue of how the Indian Media refuses to acknowledge the variety of rights that Muslim Women have gained [in the field of divorce] through various judgements and legislations. [1]

The author uses the case of Shayaro Bano, who suffered abuse at the hands of her husband and finally gave her a talaqnama. Now, any woman in this situation has two choices. The first option she has is she can claim that the talaqnama was invalid and remain as his wife. She can rely on many precedents like Shamim Ara v State of U.P[2] and claim that the arbitrary talaq was invalid. Alternatively, she can also accept the talaqnama, thus ending her abusive marriage while also netting a settlement amount through the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights upon Divorce) Act, 1986.

However, we can see that Shayaro Bano chooses to file a PIL instead in the Supreme Court which challenged triple talaq on the ground that it violates the fundamental rights of a woman. This choice is an interesting one since Muslim women already have countless cases like Shamim Ara and Danial Latifi[3], who have clearly set down a number of rules to be followed before declaring a triple talaq valid.

The author argues that the Indian media portrays a Muslim Woman as an entity who is completely stripped off of her rights. Shayara Bano has been placed on the same level as Shah Bano by the media despite the fact that legal recourses already existed in her case.

Experts like Syeda S Hameed believe that a judgement on the Triple Talaq issue (which has come out) will only provide further ammunition to the media for targeting Muslims. This will, in turn, help right-wing nationalist groups such as the RSS to use this to fuel their hate rhetoric. This will only strengthen the cycle of hate with the media as a facilitator and can in no way serve the higher purpose of the unity of the country.

Thus, it is the author’s argument that a declaration by the Supreme Court on this issue will only serve to destroy the average Muslim’s public image and provide no substantial legal benefit.

This is an intriguing stance taken by the author, but I believe it is not without fault. Sanjukta Basu in a critique of Agnes’s article points out that the entire practice of triple talaq is unilateral and at the option of the husband. [4]Thus, any defence of the same would be futile. Basu also questions the reason why Agnes criticizes such a move taken by Shayara Bano. She believes that a court order is a massive endorsement for women’s rights and the fact that Muslim women are reaching out to the Supreme Court to seek their constitutional rights is something that the author should respect.

[1] Agnes, F. (2016, May 14) Muslim Women’s Rights and Media Coverage. Retrieved from http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/20/web-exclusives/muslim-womens-rights-and-media-coverage.html

[2] Shamim Ara v. State Of U.P., KLT 2002(3) (SC) 537

[3] Danial Latifi v. Union of India (2001) 7 SCC 740

[4] Basu, S. (2016, September 19) Triple talaq: Why Flavia Agnes’ position on Shayara Bano’s SC petition is anti-women. Retrieved from http://www.firstpost.com/india/triple-talaq-why-flavia-agnes-position-on-shayara-banos-sc-petition-is-anti-women-3010878.html


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashwin Ajimsha

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Ashwin is currently in the second year of B.A.L.L.B. in Jindal Global Law School, Haryana. Interested in research/writing and loves movies, especially if they are law related.

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