This semester, we have a subject called ‘Family Law’. As the name might make it apparent”, it is related to personal laws regarding marriage, divorce, maintenance and adoption. While we were studying the Muslim personal law, the inherent inequality and injustice in the procedure struck me hard. Later it was the same in Hindu law as well. What was common in both of these personal laws was that the women have fewer rights than the men under the religious personal laws. In some cases, they have no right at all; under Muslim law they have no say in marriage and divorce; under Hindu law they can’t inherit property or adopt children. These personal laws reinforce a subordinate position of women with regards to men. Based on this I thought were religion and women’s right exclusive? After much thinking, the answer was NO. The Muslim personal law is supposed to be based on Quran, which is based on teachings of Prophet. It has been the overwhelming view of Islamic scholars that Prophet was the first feminist; Islam was reformist movement which gave women right to divorce, re-marry and work. It is the same under Hinduism, under ancient Hindu text women were regarded as Goddesses, they participated in all spheres of life, and in fact some of them were renowned far and wide for their talents. If in ancient period they did hold a far superior post than they do today then one might think what happened, what changed? I found answers in Alaa Murabit’s TED talk; she is a Canadian physician who later became a women right activist in Libya. According to her, the reason is lack of women “at the table”. What she means by this is women don’t get representation in the decision making process, decision regarding their autonomy, freedom and rights are conspicuous by the lack of women in the process. When one thinks about it, it does make a lot of sense, for instance if one looks at the governing bodies of all religions there are hardly any women. Humans are by nature selfish being, first they think about themselves and then others, this is precisely the reason laws improving status of women are few and widely spaced. People in power just don’t have any motivation to make such changes. Usually, there are two ways to pressurize people to make changes one is via civil society pressure groups and other is being part of the decision making process. Since these are religious bodies whose representatives are not elected by people and who have no accountability towards them, hence pressurizing them would not be any good. Also they have the tendency to justify everything by using the same old argument that it is God’s will. So the only way to remedy this is by making women part of the decision making process, it would be hard at first but sooner or later it would work out. Also a movement to reclaim the religion to bring out its inherent equality would also go a long way towards making religion more inclusive.
About the Author: This article is contributed by Alifya Vora, our intern.