October 8, 2016, 12:57 AM IST ET Edit in ET Editorials | Edit Page, India, Lifestyle, World | ET
The government has done well to tell the Supreme Court that it opposes triple talaq, a practice supported by Muslim personal law in India, under which a Muslim man can divorce his wife just by repeating the word talaq (meaning divorce) three times — sometimes even by text message or over Skype.
The court, while hearing a petition challenging the constitutional validity of triple talaq, polygamy and halala, which mandates a divorced woman to marry and consummate marriage with another man before remarrying her former husband, had asked the central government for its opinion.
These are not essential parts of the religion, the Centre has told the court and further asserted that these provisions violate gender justice, equality and women’s dignity.
The latter is the core of the issue.
The country’s Constitution upholds fundamental democratic rights and counts rights of minorities to profess, practise and propagate their religion as part of democratic rights.
Minority rights are not patronage, as they were under many kings in the past. These are part and parcel of democratic rights.
However, when minority custom comes in conflict with basic democratic rights, custom must yield to democratic rights. Undemocratic and unequal practices cannot continue in the name of minority rights.
The notion that Muslim existence would be jeopardised if some sections of the sharia relating to the treatment of women are abandoned is spurious. Some of these practices have been rendered illegal in several Muslim-majority countries.
Besides, Muslims in India suffer no religious derogation for not following the sharia in criminal justice or financial matters. It should be noted that the Goa civil code, Portuguese till the 1960s, has no discriminatory provisions for Muslim women.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.