Marriage and divorce: Indian Muslims

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2016: Only  0.6% women divorced

The Times of India, Dec 12, 2016

Death, not talaq, does them part in Bengal'

Saibal Sen

A study conducted by, among others, Pratichi Institute, founded by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, has found that widowhood, and not triple talaq, is the primary marriage disruptor among Muslim women in Bengal. The study -conducted in 2014 but the results of which were released recently -incorporated the results of a survey conducted in 325 villages and 75 municipal wards in Bengal.

According to the results, only 0.6% of the women surveyed were divorced, and 0.7% separated -together accounting for only 1.3%. The multi-agency study , which also included Association SNAP and Guidance Gu ild, covered 8,000 households, 6,500 rural and 1,500 urban.

"The primary objective was to gauge the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Bengal," said Jahangir Hossain, the study's chief coordinator. "The Rajendra Sachar Committee report, which ca me in the public domain in 2007, had fuelled fierce political debate. But then, as investigators, we felt the data was too old to draw any conclusions from. Therefore, the new study . The first reports were published in 2014; these are the detailed findings."

According to the researchers, Census 2011 had found 8.2% of women who were divorced, separated or considered themselves "deserted".This figure in Bengal, according to the same Census figures at 9.6%, is slightly higher than the national average. While the time-gap and sample size doesn't allow them to draw any finite conclusion based on the Census 2011 and their own survey (which started much later in September 2013), their own findings indicate that nearly 8% of Muslim women aged 15-49 are widows, against the 1.3% separated.

The detailed findings also throw up an interesting footnote. In three districts of Bengal -Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur, where the Muslim population has surpassed the Hindu population according to Census 2011, the divorce and separation rates among Muslim women are much lower than other Muslim-minority districts. In North Dinajpur, only 1% of the women surveyed are divorced or separated; in Malda, it is 0.7%, and 1.8% in Murshidabad. The figures are much higher in neighbouring districts East Midnapore, Cooch Behar and Birbhum.

It isn't without reason, therefore, that Toha Siddiqui, the influential Furfurasharif peerzyada, used this data at the recently-concluded All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) three-day convention to dispel certain myths about triple talaaq.

Toha had argued that triple talaaq, as stated in the Shariat law (Muslim personal law), should be followed, including its timelines, which allowed for a reconciliation period between the couple and external witnesses. "The Muslim personal law also allows for remarriage among the estranged partners. It is prima rily due to these facts that we have decided to form an AIMPLB women's wing to dispel certain myths," argued Trinamool Congress MP Sultan Ahmed, an AIMPLB member.

Faruque Ahamed, a Kalyani University assistant director, who is doing his own research on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Bengal, said: "I think the major takeaway for me in these findings is the rapidly dissipating urban-rural wedge. The data doesn't throw any marked variations when it comes to divorce and separation. Perhaps a reason could be the larger sample-size of rural households covered."

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