New Delhi, 13 Feb. (AKI/Asian Age) – A rights organisation based in India said that divorces through e-mail, text message (SMS) and telephone are on the rise among India’s Muslim population. A study on “Marriage and divorce amongst Muslim women in India”, undertaken by Sahiba Hussain, reader, Centre for Dalit and Minorities, Jamia Milia Islamia, highlights that more and more men are divorcing via SMS and e-mail. Where women do not have access to mobile phones or computers, men use landline phones to pronounce the divorce declaration. “From 15 divorces that we looked at in 2008, eight were pronounced via SMS, e-mail and over the phone,” said Husssain.
“Five divorce declarations were given face to face but amongst these also, only in one case a witness present when the declaration was made,” she said.
The phenomenon is taking place despite a decree by the All-India Muslim Women Personal Law Board’s which forbids men from divorcing by electronic means.
Most of the SMS’ and e-mails had husbands complaining along predictable lines. They did not find the wife “beautiful enough”, “compatible enough” or of having brought “adequate dowry”.
Dowry demands are on the rise and the minimum cash payment being made by the wife’s family to the bridegroom is 5,000 rupees or the equivalent of 80 euros.
Even those families which earn as little 10 rupees per day or 15 euro cents are expected to fork out a dowry.
“One woman was so confused after receiving the SMS that she sought clarification from the qazi, or Islamic judge who, on reading the pronouncement, said that it did amount to a divorce.
“The husband was working abroad when he sent it,” Hussain said.
Over 30 women have been interviewed so far from Delhi and several other cities in Bihar including Darbanga, Madhubani, Munghyar and Gaya in Bihar.
The idea was to include feedback from women living in both urban and rural India. Only one woman received a registered notice. In 90 percent of the cases it was found that women had to wait, sometimes as long as 27 years, just to recover her ‘meher’ or dowry, with husbands giving assurance that the “meher would be given to the woman at an appropriate time”.
With Islamic judges not being in a position to ensure bridegrooms pay the maintenance or support money, a majority of Muslim women seek maintenance through civil courts, the study concludes.
Women divorcees are among those with the lowest social status in Indian Muslim society.
The report cites the example of one such divorced woman who faces much social stigma while “until today, her younger two sisters have remained unmarried”, said Hussain.