Census puts Muslim divorce rate at just 0.56%

File photo of a victim of triple talaq waiting to meet UP Women and Family Welfare Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi. Surveys conducted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) claim the divorce rate among Muslims to be as high as 11% as opposed to the Census

The divorce rate among Muslims in the 2011 Census is lower than among Hindus. And while there is no survey on cases of ‘triple talaq’, the incidence could be as low as 1% of the total

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, TV channels and the Supreme Court are all concerned over the ‘regressive’ practice of triple talaq, here are 10 facts that put the issue in perspective.

  • The Census of 2011 had put the divorce rate among Muslims at 0.56% (0.76% among Hindus)
  • Neither the government nor the Law Commission has conducted any survey on the extent of triple talaq among Indian Muslims
  • The only known surveys have been conducted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), which claim the divorce rate among Muslims to be as high as 11% as opposed to the Census
  • The discrepancy could be because the two surveys done by BMMA covered 4,710 Muslim women from 10 states in one survey and 117 Muslim women from eight states in the second
  • The BMMA Shariat courts in 2014 received 219 cases of divorce and 22 of which were related to triple talaq
  • In one of the surveys covering 117 divorce cases by the BMMA, in 0.2% of the cases, talaq was delivered over phone, in 0.6% cases through e-mail and in 0.19% cases through SMS
  • In 40.57% of the divorce cases referred to BMMA, Muslim women were the ones who demanded a divorce
  • The BMMA survey found that in 2% of the cases Muslim men had taken a second wife prior to divorce and that in 38% of the cases Muslim men preferred to remain single even after divorce
  • In two cases out of 117 cases referred to by the BMMA, the women were asked to undergo halala, which means a woman will have to marry another man before returning to the first husband
  • There is no survey on the extent of polygamy among either Muslims or Hindus. Empirical evidence, however, puts the instances of polygamy among the poorer sections of the two communities as high or as low as the other

While a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is to hear a batch of petitions seeking a ban on polygamy and halala and to decide whether triple talaq is against Constitutional principles, several scholars have questioned the Government’s eagerness to flag the issue.

As Fauzan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of NALSAR, Hyderabad, says in the following article he wrote for thewire.in, as many as 1.2 crore children in India get married by the age of 10 despite laws banning child marriage. Eighty-four percent of these child marriages are among Hindus. But the government does not seem too worried about this ‘regressive’ practice.

Mustafa writes, “The BMMA shows the deplorable condition of Muslim women. But their condition is much the same as Hindu women from the same social class. The evil of instant triple talaq need only be replaced with the sin of ‘desertion’. Why is no one bothered about the plight of Hindu women on the issue of domestic violence, desertion and polygamy? The recent film, Parched, highlights this reality. The problems of poor women amongst all religious communities are similar and there is nothing special or distinct about Muslim women. The class character must be given due consideration in the analysis of any social problem.”

“Should the Supreme Court or government take crucial decisions to reform personal law on the basis of such unscientific research? The apex court should ask the Law Commission to conduct a major comparative study on this subject to know the ground realities of women from various religious communities. On its part, the government should release all the data from the socio-economic- caste census. Let this research be used as a starting point for a truly informed debate on the plight of women in Indian society – all women, regardless of caste, region or religion,” Mustafa adds.

In yet another report on the subject, an Assistant Professor of Sunni Theology Mufti Zahid Ali Khan is quoted as saying, “Triple talaq might be anti-human rights, it might be anti-women and children’s rights, but please don’t tell us it is unconstitutional. When the case of Jain religious practice of a ritualistic fast unto death came before the apex court, what did the court do? It allowed the practice to continue, affirming the fundamental rights of Jains to practise their religion without any judicial intervention. How come they can interfere when it comes to us?”

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