While all the five petitioners in the triple talaq case, who became the faces of Muslim women’s empowerment in India, are moving on in their lives after a hard struggle, they have different opinions on the debate in Parliament over criminalising the practice after getting it banned by the Supreme Court.
While Ishrat Jahan joined the Bharatiya Janata Party along with her lawyer, last week, other petitioners said they have no plans to join politics and not all of them agree that criminalising triple talaq is the right way to discourage it.
Ishrat Jahan, one of the petitioners in triple talaq case, told The Sunday Guardian, “I joined the BJP because they have been working for the cause that I strongly feel for. They are the ones who have been around all along during the fight against the wrong practices that are passed off as Shariah.”
However, Jahan is aware of the criticism that her affiliation with the BJP has brought her. She said, “If a political party is willing to raise the issue of women, then why cannot I join it? I have reached that phase in my life where I have understood that it does not matter what people say.”
Jahan’s financial condition has never been strong. “I want to be independent now. The Mahila Morcha women in Bengal BJP have helped me a lot to improve my circumstances,” she said. Her son is soon expected to take admission in a school, while her three other children live with their father. Jahan added, “Finding a job is difficult. Until now, some of my relatives were helping me survive. I do not wish to be financially dependent anymore.”
As of now, Jahan said that she has not been given any specific role or responsibilities in BJP because she is too busy addressing the media. She is also expected to participate in the Minority Conference that the state unit of Bengal BJP will organise on 11 January.
While Jahan has decided to become a full-time politician to work for women’s empowerment, Shayra Bano is on her quest to higher education.
After returning from her examination, Bano confirmed, “Yes, I am pursuing MBA. I am in my first year and have been appearing for examinations that are ongoing. It is difficult to get back to the daily routine of a student after so many years, but this is hope for me.”
Bano had completed her masters in sociology in 1999. After a gap of 18 years, she decided to get back to the academic toil. Asked what motivated her to do so, Bano said, “Financial independence, of course. I want to try to get my children back. They live with their father because I could not sustain them. If I am better qualified, I can aim for better career opportunities.”
As for any plans for social activism or politics, Bano said, “I want to focus on my studies. But for the cause of empowering women, every now and then, I visit meets and talks for awareness purposes. I am not engaged with any NGO on a full-time basis, but I meet a lot of activists who insist that I attend social events. I have no plans to join politics. It is surely a way to help people, so if anybody thinks they can get involved in politics and stay honest to their purpose, then sure it is good.”
Aafreen Rehman, the Jaipur-based petitioner in the triple talaq case, is recuperating from her deteriorated mental and physical health and wishes to get back to her normal life soon.
Rehman said, “The situation on the ground has not changed drastically. There are still cases being reported where men gave instant talaq to their wives. So, obviously we need a deterrent. But criminalising such husbands is a bit too far.”
Though a victim herself, Rehman does not think that sending men to jail will be the right solution. “People can call off a marriage and if they do not follow the due procedure, they should be heavily penalised, but criminalising them is a bit too much, according to me. It is a divorce. You cannot deem a person criminal because they divorced their wife or husband,” said Rehman.
Rehman, who comes from an affluent background, was working with an MNC after completing her MBA before she got married. She had decided to quit her job at her husband’s insistence, but due to persistent demands for dowry, their marriage suffered. “In 2015, I met with an accident that I am still recuperating from. In 2016, I had started my fight against instant triple talaq. I wish to get back to my career, but it has not been easy to find a job.”
The other two petitioners, Atiya Sabri and Gulshan Parveen, who have largely stayed away from media glare, did not want to talk about the case. However, Sabri’s elder brother who handled the case said, “Atiya has no intention to become a politician. She feels for the rights of women and helps any such case in need through NGOs and activists she is connected with. Whatever work she wants to do, she will do it through social work; she does not need politics to help her intentions.
“She is living a domestic life now and other than her social work, she prefers to stay at home.”