NEW DELHI: After years of "hardship", Muslim women have found a way to free themselves from instant triple talaq, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today in his first remarks on the issue after a bill to criminalise the practice was passed in the Lok Sabha.
He also said that the policy of allowing Muslim women to perform Haj only in the company of a male guardian was "injustice" and discriminatory and his government has removed the restriction following which hundreds of women have applied to travel alone for the pilgrimage.
The prime minister made these remarks highlighting the efforts of his government to give equal opportunities to Muslim women at two separate events.
Without referring to the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill passed by the Lower House last week, Modi said, "The hardship faced by Muslim mothers and sisters over triple talaq is not hidden from anyone. After years of struggle, they have found a way of freeing themselves from (the practice) of instant triple talaq." The bill makes instant triple talaq or 'talaq-e-biddat' illegal and provides for a jail term of up to three years for the husband. The offence has been made cognizable and non- bailable.
Women under the draft law can seek subsistence allowance and can claim custody of minor children. A magistrate's court is empowered to decide on the quantum of jail term, amount of fine, subsistence allowance and custody of minor children.
The bill awaits clearance by the Rajya Sabha where it may come up on Tuesday.
Modi made the remarks while delivering the inaugural address at the 85th Sivagiri pilgrimage celebrations, at Sivagiri Mutt in Varkala in Kerala through video conference.
He also referred to the issue of Haj pilgrimage by women in his monthly 'Mann ki baat' radio address and said removal of the restriction of having a male guardian or 'mehram' may appear as a "small thing", but such issues "have a far reaching impact on our image as a society".
According to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Muslim women above 45 years will be allowed to go for the pilgrimage without 'mehram' in a group of at least four.
The prime minister said he was surprised when he first heard about the restriction.
"Why this discrimination? And when I went into the depth of the matter I was surprised to find that even after 70 years of our Independence, we have such restriction. For decades, injustice was being rendered to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it," he said in his broadcast.
Modi said that such a restriction was not prevalent in many Islamic countries.
"I am happy to note that this time about 1,300 Muslim women have applied to perform Haj without 'mehram' and women from different parts of the country, from Kerala to north India, have expressed their wish to go for the Haj pilgrimage," he said.
The prime minister said he has suggested to the Ministry of Minority Affairs that they should ensure that all the women who have applied to travel alone be allowed to perform Haj.
"Usually there is a lottery system for selection of Haj pilgrims but I would like that single women pilgrims should be excluded from this lottery system and they should be given a chance as a special category," he said.
Soon after Modi's address ended, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi tweeted that women seeking to travel alone for Haj will be kept out of lottery system and the 1,300, who have applied under the new rules, will be allowed to go for the pilgrimage.