“I received a Talaq letter, which accused me of being mentally instable. I asked him to come before the Jamaat and prove these accusations. I finally filed a complaint in the police. I was devastated by it.” Nadiya*, Triple Talaq survivor talks to Mariya Salim.
Mariya Salim: Can you describe your experience with triple talaq?
Nadia: I was divorced in December, 2014. After we got married me and my husband were living in Bangalore because we were working there. It was an arranged marriage. His parents resented me because I had moved with him to Bangalore, whereas they thought as a daughter-in-law I should’ve stayed behind with them. I had moved with him to help him out, since he was having financial trouble. I found a job there. I was married in 2010, and was working there till 2014.
We would go back to his parent’s house to celebrate Id every year. After the first 2 years of marriage, they asked me to not visit them for id. They wanted us to give them more money when we visited. We didn’t earn a lot, but we used to give them at least Rs.2000 every visit. They demanded Rs.10,000 every time. They blamed me, thinking I was stopping my husband from sending them the money. These were the problems.
My husband was soon influenced by his parents because they asked him to choose between parents or me. He wanted to have a second marriage, but I was not agreeable to that. They blamed me for not being able to conceive. They used these excuses against me. I asked the Jamaat, i.e. the community panchayat for assistance, but they were intimidated by my husband because he’s an advocate.
I received a Talaq letter, which accused me of being mentally instable. I asked him to come before the Jamaat, the community panchayat, and prove these accusations. He sent three separate letters. I begged him to not do this. But they refused my pleas. I finally filed a complaint in the police.I was devastated by it.
MS: Did you hear the judgment which came out recently declaring triple talaq invalid according to law?
N: Yes, I heard of it. It’s very good, I want such practices to be banned completely. All forms of talaq, except which is prescribed by the Quran should be done away with.
MS: What are your expectations from the Jamaat?
N: Jamaat needs to be more responsible. They need to provide assistance to the woman also, not only the man. They can’t be intimidated like they were with my husband.
The interviewer Mariya Salim is a women’s rights activist and researcher. She is member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan.
“Now [after the judgment] men know that they cannot behave like they have the absolute say in a relationship. The men are really happy that they finally are safe from erratic divorce.” Mariam*, survivor of Triple Talaq from Delhi shares her experience with Vibha Mohan.
Vibha Mohan: How did you come to associate with Bebaak collective?
Mariam : My husband always treated me very abusively. So, I approached Hasina Khan, and have been involved with Bebaak Collective ever since.
After being treated abusively by my husband and divorced without consent, I knew there was something I had to do. I could not sit back and allow such a practise to continue to perpetuate in our community, and scar the lives of innocent women.Since then, my journey with Bebaak Collective has come a long way – from the petition to the verdict.
VM: Can you elaborate on your experience with triple talaq and how you dealt with it?
M: My husband never treated me like an equal in our marriage. Even with the nikaah there was no question of negotiating the terms of marriage. I was asked whether I consented, with an underlying pressure, and since my voice had been silenced.
A marriage is supposed to be between two people, but in my case it felt like I was an invisible entity whereas my husband had all the power. He restricted my freedom and choices; he would force me to take part in things I was uncomfortable with. He would never take my objection or my opinions into consideration. When I objected strongly, he would take offence and abuse me both physically and verbally. It was emotionally very traumatic.
When he realised I would not behave according to his wishes, he divorced me without considering the effect on our two children. He told me he would rather marry another woman. He married another woman shortly after.
I was devastated after the divorce. I was supposed to live in my maternal home. I realised how powerless a woman was in a marriage. I felt betrayed by the fact that my opinion had no value in a marriage.
There was no question of reconciliation since the practise was that once the triple talaq is pronounced, it is final and irrevocable.
VM: Do you know of other women who have gone through this? How widespread is this practice according to you?
M: Triple talaq is an evil practise that was rampant in the community. Most families subscribe to it as law. Once the triple talaq has been pronounced, it is deemed irrevocable and permanent.
It is rather unfortunate that such a unilateral pronouncement of divorce breaks a marriage between two people. Most of the time there is no rationale behind the triple talaq. For instance, when a woman gives birth to a female child, it is considered the fault of the woman in the relationship, and the man considers it just to pronounce the triple talaq and terminate the marriage. Such divorces are arbitrary and unfair to woman. They colour innocent women as wrong doers when it is no fault of theirs. The women are left with no support, and expected to move to their maternal home and pretend that the divorce was just. Nobody attempts to fight this practise that arbitrarily confers so much power to a man in a relationship.
VM: Now that the judgment is passed, what does that mean for women like yourself? Are you celebrating it? In what ways would this change the condition of women in the community?
M: The entire community is very happy about the verdict. We believe that it is a step forward in protecting the position of a woman in a marriage. Now [after the judgment] men know that they cannot behave like they have the absolute say in a relationship. The women are really happy that they finally are safe from erratic divorce.
But I should also mention that there is a certain percentage of the community that is unhappy – because they feel the verdict is against Islam, and they doubt the character of a woman inherently. Therefore they are sceptical of the judgment and how it will affect them.
However, this is a major victory for women in our community. The scepticism of a few cannot undo what this judgment has done as a precedent. Now the Court must turn its attention to doing away with the evils of nikah-halala and polygamy.
Vibha Mohan is a student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune and interned with Lawyers Collective.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.
Poster made by Saheli, Delhi 1985