Bader Sayeed is one of the top lawyer-activists
in Chennai, the first woman chairperson of the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board.
schoolmate of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, she was the All India
Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate in the 2004 parliamentary elections
from the Chennai South constituency, and was defeated by the DMK's T R Baalu.
Sayeed was in the forefront supporting the Shah Bano case judgment in the 1980s
that granted maintenance to divorced Muslim women. Now, she has gone to the
Supreme Court seeking a ban on triple Talaq, resorted to by Muslim men to
divorce their wives without recourse to law.
Sayeed tells Shobha
Warrier/Rediff.com why she has moved the Supreme Court.
many years of working as a lawyer and activist, why did you decide to go to the
Supreme Court now for a ban on triple Talaq?
is not only on triple Talaq. Two years ago, I filed a writ petition in the
Madras high court seeking to stop the Qazis who exercise their rights, which
they do not have, to validate divorces by men.
no judicial power to do so under the Qazis Act of 1880.
how it is practised in India, where after pronouncing Talaq three times men go
to the clergy to validate the divorce.
wrong, and it is high time it is stopped. That is why I filed a petition in the
high court to stop it. It has been pending in the high court.
Saira Bano has moved the Supreme Court against triple Talaq, I thought it was a
good time to move a writ petition on triple Talaq.
My view is
that every divorce should go through the court of law. You can follow the
Quranic practice of three months (wait), but the final arbitrator should be the
gives the clergy the authority to issue the validation?
He says he
is the chief Qazi and he has the authority to validate. But according to the Qazis
Act, he has no such authority.
argument is that they have been doing it for years. They do not even call the
women and hear their side of the story; the wives suddenly get the (divorce)
notice by post.
women complain that they get Talaq by email, even via WhatsApp. Is it
is acceptable or not, they send Talaq and get it validated by the Qazis. This
is wrong. That's why I am fighting it.
I am also
of the opinion that every Talaq must go through the court. These men say that
it would be interpreted as interference. How can you call it interference?
has to protect every citizen. If something violates what the Constitution says
-- the Right to Live with Dignity -- how can you call it interference?
In the case
of child's rights, the court decides with whom the child should live. When it
comes to domestic violence, the court comes to a decision. Similarly, in this
case also, I don't see any interference.
triple Talaq come into being?
It has been
there from the British days and they validated it. In 2004, the Supreme Court
said you have to follow the Quranic law, which is three months' wait period,
but nobody is following it.
Muslim woman go to court and get a divorce? Or, does she also have to go to the
She can go
to the court under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, but then the man,
the defendant, has to come to court. A divorced woman cannot even file for
maintenance. He can immediately come and say that he has divorced her and need
not pay maintenance.
Justice Kamal Basha of the Kerala high court gave a landmark judgment, asking a
Muslim man who has divorced his wife to give her medical and maintenance
expenses for 10 years.
Yes, he has
to give maintenance to his wife. That is the right judgment.
the Qazi, by validating a man's Talaq, reinforcing patriarchy?
They are showing the control a man has over a woman's life.
statement would be, religion should be kept outside of this. What we are
talking about is gender justice. We are not mixing religion in this.
is great and it has given a lot of rights to women, but these intermediaries
are interpreting it wrongly and ruining it.
them the right to say this is right and that is wrong? We want the court to
that tinkering with the Sharia is anti-Islamic.
the tinkering? We are not tinkering with anything. We are not talking about
interpreting the Quran. They are the ones talking about tinkering.
go to court for child rights and domestic violence. Is that also tinkering?
feel the resistance is because you are trying to take away the power some men
They think they can say Talaq and marry a second, third and fourth time. They
feel we are taking away that right also.
to these men, Islam gives them the right to have four wives.
were the days of war and there were more women than men. And women needed
security. That was how they were allowed to marry four times at the most, but
they were to treat all wives equally.
treat four women equally? This is also the patriarchal power in their hands.
woman say Talaq and remarry again? Why is it that only men have that power?
There is no
Quranic injunction that says so. These are all man-made.
be possible for Muslim women to have the legal power to face this kind of
Why not? If
the court decides, yes. If the court bans triple Talaq, if the court says every
divorce must go through the court of law, then all women will get the legal
power. It is for the Supreme Court to decide.
women have tried it, even you have tried before. Why is it that nobody has
succeeded so far?
vote-bank politics. Politicians feel that Muslims will be upset and won't vote
for them. It is not interference. It is not tinkering. It is gender justice. It
is high time the court steps in and decides for women.
it is mainly because of politics that this case is not moving forward?
politics is there. Why can't they say, this is hurting Muslim women and it's
not interfering in any Muslim law.
to Article 46 of the Constitution, the State should protect the
underprivileged. But in this case, the State does not protect women.
women must have approached you for justice.
imagine how many Muslim women come to meet me every day and for half of them I work
free as they are so poor. All the time I am innovating to get justice.
ever feel helpless?
yes. These men marry again. They don't come to court. They change their
address. He is free to give a divorce any time. He is free to remarry any time.
What do you do then?
not only to uneducated women, it happens to educated women too. We have to
fight every case, as there is no law.
there is a law against bigamy, you can go to court and get justice, but in the
case of Muslim women there is no law. Muslim men say we can get married four
times. There is nothing to debar them from doing this.
you feel all women, irrespective of the religion they belong to, should have
the same law to get gender justice?
be the Uniform Civil Code. That is not going to happen overnight. Until that
time, we need gender justice. Women need to survive.
men react to you fighting for Muslim women?
me to follow the Quran. They say I am not religious and I do not know what
fought during the Shah Bano case. I collected thousands of signatures in 1986
and gave them to the Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi), but what did he do?
have collected 50,000 signatures. I hope this will have an impact.
to take the lead, the legislature or the judiciary?
to act together. The judiciary can pass the orders and frame the guidelines and
then the Muslim Personal Law Board can come and create obstacles. Then the
government has to file a counter. But the judiciary can ignore anyone and pass
In the Shah
Bano case, there was a good judgment, but then Parliament brought in a law
hopeful of justice?
I am very
hopeful of our judicial system. I have great faith in our judiciary. I am sure
they will see through the drama of men.
It is not
1986. It is 2016. I would say, Chhodo Kal Ki Batein, Kal Ki Baat Purani.
Naye Dor Mein Likhenge Hum Milkar Nayi Kahani (leave the past behind, it is
outdated. In this new age, let's together pen a new script). Women have come
forward now and we will write a new Kahani.
becomes hope, hope becomes miracle, and I believe miracles do happen.