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Nikaha Halala

Nikah Halala is a practice observed in certain Muslim communities, particularly in areas where Triple Talaq is legally recognized. In this practice, a woman is required to marry another man, consummate that marriage, and then only can she remarry her previous husband. In recent years, a petition has been filed challenging this practice, along with polygamy, based on the principles of gender justice enshrined in the Indian constitution. The case is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Opponents argue that religious laws and customs should not be subject to scrutiny by the Supreme Court based on rationality. However, this argument did not prevent the Supreme Court from declaring Triple Talaq illegal. The decision on the matters of polygamy and Nikah Halala is yet to be determined.

This issue cannot be looked at from a singular perspective, as it once again raises conflicts between the principles of gender equality and the right to freedom of religion, as seen in previous cases such as the Sabarimala case. The extent of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction in religious matters is also a crucial aspect to consider in this context.

Nikah Halala, originally an Islamic practice, has undergone significant distortion over time, deviating from its intended purpose. It has now become a tool frequently wielded by Muslim men, leading to the ongoing exploitation of Muslim women. These women often find themselves burdened by the consequences of impulsive and irrational words spoken by their husbands.

The term 'Halala' derives from 'Halal,' meaning something permissible or lawful. In the context of marital relations, it signifies that a wife becomes 'Halal'-lawful or permissible-through the ceremony of Nikah Halala. Unfortunately, over time, this practice has strayed from its original purpose and has, in fact, become instrumental in perpetuating the very issues it was initially designed to prevent.

The Quran outlines a detailed and intricate procedure for divorce, designed to act as a deterrent and ensure that separation only occurs in cases of serious and irreparable marital discord where reconciliation is improbable. However, the practice of instant Triple Talaq diverges from this principle. Often, in moments of anger, husbands pronounce 'Talaq' thrice abruptly, abruptly terminating the marriage and leaving women vulnerable and defenseless in a matter of minutes.

The divorced couple faces significant challenges in remarrying due to the prohibition against marriage within the post-Talaq degrees. While those following the Quranic procedure are less likely to remarry, the same cannot be assumed for cases of Triple Talaq, which can occur impulsively for trivial reasons. This practice, violating the dignity and freedom of women, subjects them to profound humiliation.

When a woman, left defenceless and stripped of her societal status as a wife through the utterance of three words by her husband, may find herself in a vulnerable state of mind. Under societal pressure and the fear of disgrace and lifelong insecurity, she might agree to Halala. However, the critical question arises when, in pursuit of remarrying her now divorced husband and consummating the same marriage, can her participation be considered as genuine free consent?

If not, does this practice fall within the purview of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines rape.There is a pressing need for increased awareness regarding personal laws, which, often masked as religious practices, can be manipulated to oppress women.

The offensive and degrading practice of Halala should be legally addressed by criminalizing it under Section 374 (outraging a woman's modesty), Section 375 (rape), and Section 494 (bigamy). This legal approach aims to offer hope to countless women who have endured distress and vulnerability due to a fate and destiny historically dictated by their fathers and husbands, rather than by their own agency. Legislation is essential to empower these women, providing them with a tool to break free from the cycle of perpetual exploitation and lifelong humiliation.

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