Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of Muslim women along with their supporters took to the streets of Nepalgunj, a town in western Nepal, to protest against ‘Talak’ or Islamic divorce. The demonstrators, including 465 divorced Muslim women, human rights activists and about 100 Muslim men, marched on 26 and 27 November to demand immediate compensation from the women’s former husbands as well as equal division of assets after divorce.
Many Muslim women said that after divorce they were left with no support. Some said that they had to go back to their original families or find shelter at human rights organisations.
“Muslim men release (talak) their wives from the marriage, i.e. divorce them, but then no one thinks about them,” said Sima Khan, president of the Muslim Awareness Federation, one of the protest groups that organised the demonstration. “Women don’t get any of their husbands’ assets, or any support. This has increased the incidence of divorce in the Muslim community. We must achieve equal rights for these women,” she added.
“My husband divorced me five years ago. Now all my children are with him and I live with my parents,” said Roni Ansari, 39, who marched in the front of the demonstration. “I don’t have anything except a small job for my basic needs. Where will I be if my parents did not allow me to stay with them in my old age?”
Homelessness is in fact a problem for many Muslim women. Some are driven out of their parents’ home once the latter pass away.
“I escaped when my husband and mother-in-law tried to burn me with kerosene,” said Shano Khan, 17, who divorced three months ago. “Now I am staying with my parents who are not that happy for me to live with them. I don’t have a job. What can I do?”
“Many women go hungry or get into prostitution to make ends meet after divorce,” explains Nitu Haluwai, a Muslim human rights activist.
The situation is due to the fact that Nepali Muslims do not adhere to the country’s divorce law which requires both parties’ consent. Instead, under talak if a woman wants to divorce she must ask for her husband’s permission, and then pay him a certain sum.
“The existing divorce law does not respect our religious precepts,” said Nazrul Hassen, president of Nepal’s Muslim National Federation. “We have a different system and therefore do not consider it [the national law] as binding on us.”
As reported by the Nepali Times the situation is dramatic in Nepalganj where 236, mostly rural Muslim women have been divorced by their husbands on the basis of talak.
However, Muslim leader Maulana Abdul Jabbar said that talak, which is based on the Qur’an, has been badly interpreted over the years.
“Divorce proceedings ought to take place in accordance with the law but without transgressing religious values,” he said.