Quran Does NOT Encourage Polygamy

“BJP will not be in power after 2024, that does not mean we will stop this campaign against polygamy.”
Jyoti Punwani reports.

IMAGE: A member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan holding a poster against polygamy. All photos: Courtesy Jyoti Punwani

Last week, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on polygamy, which is permitted for Muslim men under Muslim personal laws.

On Tuesday, a feminist organization was one of the applicants for the 2017 triple. talaq case, released the survey report, The status of women in polygamous marriages and the need for legal protection.

“Those who support polygamy ignore the woman at the center of the issue,” says BMMA co-founder Noorjehan Safia Niaz.

“The BMMA sees itself as a human being and a citizen who should have the same protection under the law as its fellow citizens.”

In fact, this is what the women interviewed in the BMMA survey say: 84 percent want the law banning bigamy to apply to them as well, and 73 percent want Muslim bigamous men to be punished by law.

Stating that they are too powerless to approach the courts, theirs jamaats accepts men, and the police say there is nothing they can do as it is not a crime under Muslim law, they believe it is the government’s responsibility to ensure they are freed from the dead weight of polygamy.

Most of the 289 women surveyed in 10 states are poor and uneducated. The statistics from such a small sample are telling: 77% of first wives are school dropouts.

The number corresponding to second wives is 71 percent. 29% of first wives and 18% of second wives married when they were under 18.

Although 42% of first wives had no income, 45% of second wives were in this situation.

For these women, whose worlds have always revolved around their homes and families, marriage defines their lives. They are not only financially and emotionally dependent on the man they married, their status in society also comes from being his wife.

When this man who is the center of their lives takes another wife, the foundation of their existence is shaken.

As one of them says:‘mere pairon taley zameen khisak gayi (the ground disappeared under my feet).’

And there is no preparation for this shock: 72% found out that their husband had married another woman. after Indeed, and then, not from him.

Family members or friends informed them of this catastrophic change in their circumstances. A woman found out that her husband was returning from a family function only when he ran into his second wife. One was abandoned by her husband in the middle of a train journey.

Only 23% of husbands informed their first wife that they would remarry. A few said that their parents forced them to do this, and promised to take care of their first wife, but they did not.

In one case, the husband blamed the girl’s parents for not giving her a sufficient dowry and thus giving her parents a reason to remarry!

Parents also remarried their sons if the first wife did not give birth.

What are the reasons why men marry a second time?

Falling in love was the most common: 35 percent gave it as a reason.

Others did not like the physical appearance of the first wife; a man did not like the urge to visit his parents’ house frequently.

Whatever the reason, what emerged in the survey was the utter contempt with which these men treated married women and the confidence with which they remarried.

45 percent threatened to divorce their first wives if they were not ready to face the new situation.

The survey found that 50 percent of first wives suffered from long-term depression and physical ailments after their husband’s second marriage, and 43 percent reported self-harming tendencies.

Her parents and even the neighbors used to blame her husband for not being able to “answer”.

Constant crying, not eating, not being able to sleep and, as a result, not being able to take the children to school on time… Children dropping out of school was common, as most husbands (47%) had abandoned their first wife and children.

They also had a long-term psychological impact on the children. Like their mothers, the children, too, were silent and withdrawn; some would try to meet their fathers at their workplace, only to be rejected.

Mother stopped attending family functions; the children, on the other hand, stopped playing with their friends for fear of being teased.

A few women in the survey managed to rebuild their lives. Although, being uneducated, they could only take on low-paid jobs such as domestic help, they were proud to have broken from their dependence on their husbands.

One woman recounted how she spurned her husband’s attempts to return to her after years.

The survey showed that even a little help from their families went a long way in helping them rebuild their self-esteem.


IMAGE: Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan at an event: from left, Noorjehan Safia Niaz, Qazi Zubeda Khatun Sheikh, Zakia Soman, two victims of polygamy, Feroze Mithiborewala.

However, polygamy is advocated by orthodox Muslims because it is permitted by the Koran. However, says Noorjehan, the Koran did so because it was a time of war and many women became widows; It became a social obligation for such women to marry.

“That context no longer exists”, he pointed out.

Also, although the Koran allows it, it does not encourage polygamy. In fact, men are warned that if they feel they cannot treat their wives equally, they should marry only one.

In fact, according to a survey by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Islamic countries have enacted laws that have banned or severely restricted polygamy.

Another argument made in its favor is that if banned, Muslim men, like their Hindu counterparts, would have mistresses. Muslim personal law allows men to give their second wife the ‘status’ and rights of a wife.

“If having a second wife is so beneficial for women, make way with Article 494 (bigamy) IPC (Indian Penal Code) completely,” says Noorjehan.

Statistically, census figures have shown, more Hindus are polygamous than Muslims.

“It’s not about the numbers,” says Noorjehan.

“It’s about the legal protection that Muslim women should get. I get calls from women in small towns saying what should I do, she’s remarried. There’s nothing I can’t tell them. Legally, there’s nothing they can do.”

BMMA’s petition to the Supreme Court sought not only a triple ban talaqbut also on practice halal and polygamy, but the court took only threefold talaq.

“We want the Personal Law of Muslims to be completely reformed, not to eat it in this way,” complained Noorjehan.

The BMMA wants the codification of Muslim personal law and has also sent a draft of the codified law to the government.

His campaign to ban the triple talaq BMMA received a lot of abuse from their community: they were called RSS agents and their personal lives were raised. This time, they are braced for the worse as BJP member Ashwini Upadhyay has also filed a PIL demanding that polygamy be declared unconstitutional.

Apart from that, does the BMMA want a Hindutva party to accept Muslim personal law reforms?

“We have not only started working on this issue since 2014,” says Noorjehan.

“BMMA was formed in 2007 and reform of Muslim personal law has been one of our main issues since then. The previous government did not listen to our demands because of their interests; the BJP government is listening. interest,” he added.

“Congress did not listen to Muslim women, it chose to listen to patriarchal groups. BJP does the opposite. Both act according to their political agenda. But our agenda does not change. We are approaching the state, not the government,” she explained.

“BJP will not be in power after 2024, that does not mean we will stop this campaign against polygamy.”

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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