India: Statement on Muzafarnagar rape case/fatwa

Women's Centre Mumbai
We condemn the 'fatwa' issued by the Dar ul Uloom Deobandi, in the case of the rape by the father-in-law of Imrana of Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
We also condemn the All India Muslim Personal Law Board's prompt endorsement of it.
Community organizations should have been ensuring that the woman member of the community, a mother of five children, who complained of sexual violation by her father-in-law in his household was able to file a case under the penal code promptly.

Instead, they have not only issued talaq to the woman from her husband, but gone so far as to call her the mother of her husband. The incestual violation by the father-in-law has been neatly transferred on to the woman who dared to complain. This is disturbing not only in itself, but it strengthens the notion that women 'provoke' sexual violence and are ultimately always responsible for it. Various religious, community and political groups have recently propagated this view, including in metroplitan Mumbai.

Sexual assault on women, girls and even baby girls by men is used then to deny women's mobility and basic rights.

The father-in-law has been arrested under the secular Penal Code, which is accepted by both the Dar ul Uloom ulema, and the AIMPLB. But for the victim, they have reserved treatment under the unofficial Hanafi personal law, and want to impose the tribal customs practised by Arabs, thousands of years ago, on Muslim women in India, in the 21 st century.

We view this with anger and bitterness.

In the name of minority community rights, their humanity itself is being denied to certain sections of Muslim women in some parts of India. Some religio-community leaders do not hesitate to use people's faith in God, to enslave women of their communities. It is out of pressure, community pressure, that Imrana has publicly accepted this stand, even though she has not even recieved any fatwa. Her life itself, as is the life of her children and her husband, depend on acceptance by the community.

She has little choice, but to obey.

We condemn the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, for its usual call for the uniform civil code in this situation (as in every such situation), thus stereotyping all Muslim people. After the Gujarat genocide and what has been done to Muslim women by its supporters, they seem to want to start another 'demonization' programme, to regain credibility, and to further the Hindutva agenda.

We remind the BJP that Hindu caste panchayats are taking life and death decisions over both women and disempowered castes/outcastes, all over India.

We demand:
  • that this rape case be put on fast-track.
  • that the Dar ul Uloom reconsider the fatwa, and this interpretation of Muslim Personal Law itself.
  • that the AIMPLB disband itself immediately, being unable to protect the rights of Muslim women, at any time.
We appeal to Muslim communities to stop using these shariah courts, and to go to the same courts as the rest of us, minority and majority, under the common Muslim Personal Law, and to allow reforms of the same, to ensure equality with their sisters and dignity to Muslim women of India
  • that the govt pledge its commitment not to support or legalize minority community panchayats/courts/tribunals which make decisions on family matters,
  • that the govt take steps to withdraw the legality given to the caste panchayats to proclaim divorces under the Hindu Law. Where Hindu women needed saving of customs was in the area of marriage; but customary marriage is difficult to prove today. Where Hindu women are confronted with saving of every custom is in Divorce. This cannot be a pro-women situation, since they are deprived of the benefits of the modernized Hindu Law. And since customary/personal Muslim law in divorce is being challenged, it is imperative that the same be applied also to the majority community.
  • We demand deletion of Section 29, subsection 2 of the "Savings" under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 immediately. Bring all Hindu women into the purview of the common and modernized divorce law.
  • We appeal to the community of Imrana to ensure her safety and to grant her the right to the company of her family.
Women's Centre
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