Consultation on Codification of Muslim family law in Delhi

REPORT OF NATIONAL CONSULTATION ON CODIFICATION OF MUSLIM PERSONAL LAW
Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan [BMMA] and Centre for Study for Society and Secularism [CSSS] had organized a two-day workshop on ‘Codification of Muslim Personal Law’ in Indian Social Institute, New Delhi on 4th and 5th February 2012. The objective of the workshop was to firm up the draft of the codified law prepared by both the organizations.
The gathering gave their unanimous support to the process of codification. They esteemed activists and academicians felt that it is high time that the Muslim family law is codified to ensure legal rights to the Muslim women. While Quranic injunctions have ensured these rights to women, the same does not getting reflected in the law. There is a wide gap between what is ordained and what is available to the Muslim women. It is through a codified law that we will be able to bridge this gap.   For many years now the issue of reforms of personal law has remained problem centric. It is now time to take the discussion towards working out solutions, one of which is codification. For many years now the Muslim clergy have taken upon themselves the responsibility of guarding the Muslim law and as a result the Muslim women have suffered untold misery. It is now time for the enlightened members of the Muslim community to take on the onus of reforms and change. 
The gathering agreed that the codified law must ensure that the age of marriage of the Muslim girl is 18 and the boy is 21. It also called for compulsory registration of marriage with the state authorities. The mehr amount of the bride should be 100% of the annual income of the groom. This is to ensure that there is some method by which one can arrive at the amount of mehr, which many a times is nothing more than Rs. 786/-. There was complete agreement on a complete ban on unilateral oral divorce. Instead the talaak-e-Ahsan method of divorce must be codified which would be the uniform method of divorce for both man and the woman. Divorce by mutual consent [mubarah] must also be included in the codified law. Mother and father both should be declared as natural guardians of the child while deciding its custody. The ‘best interest of the child’ should be the guiding principle while deciding custody of the children. The participants reiterated that monogamy is the stated ideal in Islam. Hence polygamy must be made restrictive and conditional so that it becomes almost impossible for a Muslim man to contract another marriage in the subsistence of the first. There was also a counter argument that since the sex ratio is not in favour of women and those special conditions which supported polygamy 1400 years back do not exist now and since there are clear quranic injunctions supporting monogamy, why should polygamy not be made illegal completely?
One can say that for the first time a very open, frank and constructive debate and discussion took place amongst all those stakeholders who genuinely wanted to address the issue of legal reforms. A very important beginning has been made which will be followed by many more such consultations in different states of the country as well as nationally. The issues given above will be further discussed and debated with many more groups and organizations.
The consultations were guided by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali, Dr. Tahir Mehmood, Justice Akbar Ali, Justice Shamsuddin, Prof. Wani, Javed Anand and Zakia Soman. The draft of CSSS was prepared painstakingly by Qutubjehan Kidwai and that of BMMA was prepared by Noorjehan Safia Niaz.
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