Why a ban on polygamy is dividing Muslim women in India’s Uttarakhand state
Shayara Bano heaved a sigh of relief at the enactment of a law banning polygamy in her small Indian state, the culmination of a years-long effort, including her own case before the nation’s Supreme Court.
“I can now say that my battle against age-old Islamic rules on marriage and divorce has been won,” said Bano, a Muslim woman whose husband chose to have two wives and divorced her by uttering “talaq” three times.
“Islam’s allowance for men to have two or more wives at the same time had to end,” she said.
But Sadaf Jafar did not cheer the new law, which abolishes practices such as polygamy and instant divorce, even though she has been waging her own court fight against her husband for marrying another woman without her consent.
“Polygamy is permissible in Islam under strict rules and regulations but it is misused,” said Jafar, who is seeking alimony to support their two children. She says she did not consult Islamic scholars, as she hoped Indian courts would provide justice.
The adoption of the Uniform Civil Code in the state of Uttarakhand has opened a chasm between women in India’s largest religious minority, even among some whose lives were turned upside-down when their husbands entered multiple marriages.
Some, like activist Bano, 49, celebrate the new provisions as the overdue assertion of secular law over parallel sharia rulings on marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and succession. For others like Jafar, Muslim politicians and Islamic scholars, it is an unwelcome stunt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party.
Adoption of the code in Uttarakhand is expected to pave the way for other states ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to follow suit, over the angry opposition from some leaders of the