Sameena Begum, the main petitioner in the case against polygamy and nikah-halala, says ‘threatening me is not going to work’.

 

Sameena Begum, the main petitioner in the case against polygamy and nikah-halala, has said that more women are about to come forward to file petitions against the regressive implementation of Quranic texts. Sameena Begum was allegedly assaulted and threatened by six men earlier this week for pursuing her petition in the Supreme Court.

Begum told The Sunday Guardian, “As of now, there are six petitioners in the case in which I am the main petitioner. However, I can assure you that by next week, you will hear about new petitions being filed in court to abolish polygamy and nikah-halala. Threatening me is not going to work.”

Now under police protection, Begum, talking about the assault on her, said, “I submitted my statements in front of the magistrate on Thursday. Now, police is mandated to find and arrest these men who misbehaved and assaulted me in public.”

According to Begum, she was first confronted by four unruly men on 27 June in Okhla Vihar near her home here. The second incident took place on 28 June when she was on her way to the police headquarters to file a complaint about the assault that took place a day before. “I was on my way to ITO when I received a call and these men said that I should be worried about my children. I got scared since I had left my kids at home. I was not sure what they would do to my children if they went to my home in my absence. I went back, but the three men from the earlier assault with one more man again harassed me. Finally, I filed an FIR on 29 June. I am now under police protection.” said Begum.  Begum recognises four out of the six men and has filed an FIR against them, while the rest two are yet to be identified. The purpose of the assault, according to Begum, is to discourage her from fighting against polygamy and nikah-halala.

“These men are goons. They do not know religion. The men on whose instructions they carry out such actions do not want the right interpretations of the holy text to be implemented because they want to keep the power to themselves by subjugating their women. Since I am willing to fight, they want to silence me to set an example for other women not to rebel,” said Begum.

As of now, six petitions have been received by the court against polygamy, nikah-halala, nikah-mutah, nikah-misyar and shariah courts. Out of the six public interest litigations (PILs), four petitions have been filed specifically against polygamy and nikah-halala, two petitions in addition to polygamy and nikah-halala have also demanded a verdict on nikah-mutah and nikah-misyar, whereas one of the petitioners has asked for a ban on shariah courts as well. Among the six petitioners, four are Muslim women, out of whom three have been victims of either polygamy or instant triple talaq. Two are men out of whom one petitioner belongs to a religion other than Islam.

The petitioners have asked the court to abolish Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, which permits polygamy, nikah-halala, nikah-mutah and nikah-misyar. Nikah-mutah and nikah-misyar, literally meaning “pleasure marriage”, are verbal and temporary private marriage contracts in which the duration of the marriage and the mahr (alimony) are specified and agreed upon in advance. Shabnam, one of the petitioners who was abandoned by her husband due to polygamy, explained in her petition, “I request the court to declare polygamy and nikah-halala, practised in the Muslim community, illegal and unconstitutional for being violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution, and a declaration that extra-judicial talaq is a cruelty under Section 498A of the IPC. Nikah-halala should be an offence under Section 375 of the IPC, and polygamy should be an offence under Section 494 of the IPC.”

The only non-Muslim man among the petitioners, Ashwini Kumar Upadhayay, a social activist and a lawyer by profession, has asked the court to take cognisance of shariah courts as well. “The request to the court is to direct the Central government to take appropriate action against the person, institution and organisations running sharia courts to decide the cases related to marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession or other similar matters,” said Upadhyay in his petition.

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