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Model `nikahnama’ a step forward, says AIDWA

Friday 6 May 2005

Staff Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), after a study of the model `nikahnama’ finalised by the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, has noted that while the document falls short of the democratic demands made by the reformist sections within the community as well as other organisations, including women’s groups, it is undoubtedly a step forward.

The Board has also amended its earlier draft by excluding its "outrageous’’ sanction to child marriage. It has rightly demanded that no State Government can deprive Muslim women of their equal right to agricultural land. But its insistence on the demand for official constitution of Sharia courts has to be rejected outright, a statement issued by Subhashini Ali, Brinda Karat, Sudha Sundararaman and Anwara of AIDWA said.

"The Board has condemned the practice of triple talaq in one sitting. It has recommended that after the first talaq a minimum time period of three months is required before the second talaq. It has made it incumbent on those who are having their marriage conducted on the basis of this nikahnama to go in for arbitration and discussion. While this falls far short of the democratic demand for the banning of triple talaq, it is a small step forward,’’ the statement said.

`Meher’ payment

As far as payment of `meher’ was concerned, the Board had said that only a part of the payment could be made at the time of marriage. Of course, it would have been even better if the entire payment was made compulsory at that time, the statement said.

It is extremely unfortunate that the Board has not made an outright ban on polygamy. Polygamy is not acceptable under any circumstances. But in contrast to the earlier draft, the Board has made minor concessions to this demand by preventing the untrammelled right to more than one marriage by instructions to the Kazi performing the marriage that in the case of a second marriage, whether after a divorce or a polygamous marriage, if the husband is not fulfilling the responsibilities with regard to his children and to his first wife, then he should refuse to proceed with the ceremony.

AIDWA had demanded the woman’s right to ask for a divorce (Khula) and to include the right to deferred divorce, `Talaz-e-Tafwiz’, be included in the `nikahnama’. Unfortunately, this has not been done but members of the Board have made a categorical statement that if women wanted to include this right it is in keeping with Shariat and they must be allowed to do so.

It is essential that the recommendations are not accepted as the last word. Using the space provided by the discussions, reformists in the community and women’s organisations will have to build a strong movement to force the Board for further reform.

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