“Budget 2018: The government takes major steps with the aim of uplifting the nation’s women and children” in TOI Blog

The year 2017 witnessed landmark rulings in the favor of women which were on a standstill for decades, having begun with women appointed in high profile government positions, and keen awareness for child protection.

Upholding the national pledge to uplift and protect women and children, the government has kick-started 2018 with greater momentum than the previous year. The Union Budget of 2018 has heightened its focus on welfare for women and children. This year’s budget has provided the Women and Child Development Ministry with an increase in funds by almost 12%, bringing the total to Rs. 24,700 Crores.

To inculcate a panorama of women ranging from rural to urban, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced a boon to working women. With our prevailing governments no-nonsense attitude we witnessed a range of successes in the previous year’s Budget, 2018 is aimed at being the icing on the cake with yet provisions and more protection.

The obvious disparity in pay based on gender has been long plaguing the world, this year’s Budget aims at curbing economic discrimination. With a never before introduced provision, Arun Jaitley announced a reduction in the contribution that women employees make to the Employees Provident Fund Organisation, from 12% to 8%.

This move will increase the take-home pay, and is expected to increase job opportunities. India has a women’s labour force participation at a meager 24% as opposed to 40% globally, hopefully the reduction in EPFO will bring us at a global par. Modi’s campaign ‘Start Up India’ has made leaps and bounds through MUDRA Yojana, a scheme to provide funds to first time entrepreneurs at a concessional rate.

Arun Jaitley stated that a whopping 76% of the beneficiaries are women, to continue from the previous year this scheme has received a boost of Rs 3 Lakh Crores.  In order to further assist working women and mothers we will see a significant increase to existing schemes in the coming financial year.

The National Creche Scheme’s allocation will be doubled; under this scheme the children of working mothers are provided a safe haven, while the allocation for Working Women’s Hostel Scheme has been raised by 20%. These facilities are free of cost and provide women the required freedom and safety needed to be self-dependent.

On the other hand to further ensure cost-cutting and better health standards of women there is the Ujjwala Yojana. Under this Yojana poor families are provided cleaner cooking gas for a bare minimum amount, which is a boon to the health of women who choke in the kitchen due to the smoke from cooking. Conceived two years ago the current government exceeded its annual target in 2016-17, for the 2018-19 budget we can expect a similar projection.

The Pradhan Mantri Saubhagya Yojana, which provides free electricity to rural households has been given a target of 4 crores households, and 2 crore toilets will be installed under the Swachch Bharat Mission.  Mahila Shakti Kendra, a One Stop Shop for women empowerment at the village level, is one of the ambitious projects of the Ministry. Its allocation has been increased four-fold to Rs. 267 Crores.

The Finance Minister further stated that the loans extended to Women Self-Help Groups are expected to increase to Rs. 75000 Crores by the end of 2018-19 from Rs. 42500 Crores. Rs. 500 Crores have been provided for transfer to the Nirbhaya fund from which various schemes of Central Government and State Governments are supported for safety and protection of women. The enhanced allocation will help in creating a safety net for women in difficult situations.

Witnessing the horrendous 2017 events which brought a limelight to the predominant vulnerability of children, the Ministry has shown that the protection of children is an important area of focus. The allocation for the protection of children has been increased by 12% for the year 2018-19.

Arun Jaitley also shared some good news about a recently started Scheme launched by the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Campaign. Approximately 1.26 crore girls have benefitted through the Sukanya Samridhi Yojana accounts, which is a deposit scheme meant to meet the marriage and education expense of a girl child.

Discrimination against women is prevalent in all classes, yet up till now each budget was focused on underprivileged women. The major complaint by most regarding the previous budget was that working class women weren’t included.

For this year’s budget the government has taken serious consideration and introduced the reduction of EPFO for women of all classes. This year’s budget has been widely received with warmth when it comes to women and children, especially due to the great achievements by the current government in previous budgets.

“Triple Talaq Bill: Opposition’s double game will be counterproductive” in TOI Blog

Biddat in talaq-e-bidat (triple talaq) means innovation, but in real sense it is no innovation but pervert distortion which is not even supported by Quran. Muslim men in India have used this ‘innovation’ to ruin the lives of women and they want it to continue the same way. Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill was introduced in the parliament by the Modi government not to interfere in the religious matters of Muslim community but to empower women by removing this distorted practice and punishing the culprits for their criminal act.

The bill was introduced for the mothers and sisters of our Muslim community, to uphold their dignity, respect and right to equality. There is no space for compromise in the instant talaq as it doesn’t leave any scope for that. This mindless practice allows Muslim men to terminate the marriage in a jiffy, leaving aggrieved woman with her children helpless and shelter less. So the only objective of this bill was, is and will be to stop talaq-e- bidat forever and provide succour to aggrieved Muslim women.

When marriage is solemnized in the presence of all the family members and friends then why triple talaq is given in a one-sided, secluded manner? This bill will strengthen the status of women and prevent their social and economic harassment. The opposition parties played double game on this issue in the parliament. They allowed the bill to pass smoothly in the Lok Sabha but taking advantage of their majority, created hurdles in the Rajya Sabha. They raised frivolous objections on the viability of the bill and tried hard to make the government bite the dust. Their clear intention was to appease fundamentalists whom they use as vote bank but little did they realize that their gimmicks would ultimately back-stab Muslim women and deprive them of long awaited justice.

When this practice was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in view of the constitutional guarantees and rights given to Muslim women as equal citizens of India, it is not hard to understand why opposition parties are playing dirty politics over this issue. Thanks to their blind support for Islamic fundamentalists, this pervert practice is still continuing unabated. Recently, two more cases of instant divorce took place in Uttar Pradesh. In one of the cases, the woman was deserted because of skin colour and in the other, she was thrown out because she demanded money for the treatment of her daughter. Such uncouth treatment with women is simply shameful and unacceptable. How can a civilized society allow such blatant injustice?

Uttar Pradesh has become the first State to authenticate the Central government’s draft bill that makes triple talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence. Under the draft law, triple talaq given by uttering, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp — would be wrong or illegal and unconstitutional. The draft law, which provides for three-year imprisonment and a fine to a man trying to divorce his wife by uttering “talaq” three times, got the State government’s approval at a Cabinet meeting.

Politically motivated Muslim fundamentalists are attacking the Modi government for interfering in their religious matters but the fact remains that the proposed bill is not against their religion but the inhuman malpractice of triple talaq which according to Supreme Court infringes upon the fundamental rights of Muslim women. Whereas the Supreme Court declares triple talaq illegal, the bill provides the framework for the delivery of justice. When triple talaq is declared illegal by the Supreme Court, those who perpetrate such practice must be punished adequately and must provide compensation for their misdeeds.

Despite road block in the Rajya Sabha, the Modi government has expressed its 100% commitment towards this bill. If they really want to enact this law, they still have many options. The government can reintroduce it in the budget session after due consultation with the opposition parties. If the opposition parties try to vitiate the soul of the bill, then government can convene a joint parliamentary session to get it passed. Hope good sense will prevail on opposition parties this time and they will help government enact this historic law that empowers Muslim women.

“From moon to the world, it’s all about Indian women” in TOI Blog

It is always said to each and every Indian women out there that you are born to fight. Fight with rituals, myths, society, men domination and what not. Indian women have almost fought a war to be what they are now. Whether it is the great Matreiye or Kalpana Chawla or the world’s most beautiful lady- Manushi Chillar, every one has contributed a lot to make this nation proud and independent. Indian history is flooded with all these great women who had shown a remarkable face of themselves when the society needed them the most. One should not get surprised after knowing the fact the it was not the Indian men like Chanakya and Ashoka who dreamt of ‘Akhand Bharat’ but she was the mother of Puru, Anusuya who had been killed for dreaming so.

When it comes to sacrifice, those were Indian women who put their step forward before anyone to protect their family, to protect their nation. Rani Padmavati is in lot of debates nowadays and we Indians must not forget that she was the one who with other 16,000 women did ‘Johar’ after struggling against Alaudin khilji. Not only this, there were many powerful women like Rani Lakshmi Bai, Bhagwati Devi, Aasha Devi, Uda Devi and Begum Hazart Mahal who played an incredible role in 1857 Indian Revolution against Britishers. They made Britishers hollow from inside and this revolt encouraged various other women to jump in the Indian Freedom Movement. Women like Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai, Renuka Ray and Malti Chowdhry had become sensations for Indian people who later on became the framers of Indian Constitution. Even when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose build Indian national army, he made a special branch for women which was headed by Lakshmi Sehgal.

From then, our Indian government noticed the true power and capabilities of women of our country and allowed them to be there not only in Indian Military but also in Airforce and Navy so that they can fight with the enemies of our nation. But these ladies are just not strong, they are supreme in every other category and this was purely proved by the most beautiful ladies of this world and that too Indian whether we name Rita Fariya, Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai, Diana Hayden, Yukta Mukhi, Priyanka Chopra or the most recent Manushi Chillar who has made India proud in front of the whole world. And its all about the culture and values of Indian women which are further been given to their daughters and Manushi Chillar gave a great example of this thing by beautifully describing her mother’s contribution in her life.

India was known as the underdeveloped land of snake charmers and acrobats, but these daughters has totally changed the image of our country. Its not just about beauty but also brain whether knowledge, logics or scriptures are concerned. And in all these things, government is also providing a back hand to develop women in every way possible. There is greater thrust on women’s issues by Modi’s government. One of most recent step taken by this government by passing a bill to abolish this ‘triple talak’ practice which would help the Muslim women to be stronger. He is building on a variety of women-focused initiatives like campaigns to educate girls, increased maternity leave, the provision of safer cooking fuels for rural families and also a bill seeking one-third representation for women in Parliament and State Assemblies seeing that women are no less than men in politics and can run a nation as well.

This journey of Indian women so far is much respectable and appreciable. They are now much capable of raising voice for their rights. It can easily be seen that women place themselves in a much stronger place nowadays as on one hand we have India’s first woman defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman while on other the lioness Sushma Swaraj whose voice is enough to calm other men down. These ladies are not less than anyone. Now no moon is farther for any new budding Kalpana Chalwla and the world seems less for ladies like Manushi Chillar.

India is a country of goddesses where women are treated above all, where they are worshipped, where disrespecting them is always an offence. Now they are awaken and much more powerful than ever, powerful enough that they don’t rely on others. They very well know how to fight with social disparities to maintain their family and how to fight with enemies to run a nation because Indian women are born fighters.

“Bill against Triple Talaq: How long will this fight continue? Include polygamy and Nikah Halala in this Bill too” in TOI Blog

On November 24, a 32-year-old woman was allegedly divorced by her husband via phone call. They were married for 10 years and have children. Her husband uttered “talaq” thrice on the phone as the woman wasn’t able to meet his extortionist demands for dowry.

“There were 177 reported cases of triple talaq before the Supreme Court verdict. Even after the verdict, 67 cases of instant talaq were reported. The majority of such cases were in Uttar Pradesh,” said a senior government official.

On August 22, the Supreme Court declared instant triple talaq unconstitutional. The court’s ruling was that instant triple talaq is “violative of the fundamental right under Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution of India”.

The verdict added that Muslim Personal Law (Sharia) Application Act, 1937, when it comes to the matter of triple talaq, must be removed. After the landmark judgment, it was up to Parliament to enact the legislation regarding Muslim marriages and divorce, which is to be implemented within six months of the Supreme Court ruling.

The government plans to introduce legislation aimed at outlawing the controversial Muslim practice of instant triple talaq in the coming winter session of Parliament. “The draft has been sent to all the state heads, and their recommendations and comments have been sought on the draft. Once that is done, further steps will be taken to table the Bill,” a Home ministry official had said. It has been reported that state heads had been given three months to give their suggestions and consent.

The plan is to bring a bill that will ban instant triple talaq, create a non-bailable punishment, and a three-year imprisonment sentence against the husband. The bill may also grant the wife maintenance and custody of her minor children by moving the court. The bill will make instant talaq through any form (verbal, writing, electronic etc) illegal and void. Any aggrieved Muslim woman would be entitled to approach a magistrate court to seek redressal.

A senior BJP leader said, “the issue of triple talaq has become a social concern because women have started coming out against it. The practice is now being opposed by women who are financially and socially vulnerable.” When instant triple talaq happens, a victim has no option but to approach the police for justice. “Even police are helpless as no action can be taken against the husband in the absence of punitive provisions in the law. The step taken by the government is a positive message and legislation will go a long way in deterring Muslim husbands from divorcing their wives. Legislation will also empower women who find themselves helpless against the use of the practice,” the BJP leader had said.

The best solution to remove all hardships faced by women would be to apply Uniform Civil Code nationally and remove Personal Laws. When it comes to polygamy, instant triple talaq and nikah halala in Sharia Law, they all are a violation of the rights and integrity of a woman. To follow a UCC which guides each individual under the same purview of the law with equality not only of religion, but also of gender, is the aim of our constitution and our judicial system. Till when will our Muslim sisters fight these archaic practices?
Though the problem of Personal Laws isn’t limited to Muslim women, it also extends to other factional divisions.

In 1991, Goolrukh Gupta, who was named Goolrukh Contractor before her marriage, was married in South Gujarat to a Hindu Man. Originally from the Zoroastrian faith, she held to her religion and continued her practices even after marriage. After her father’s death she was denied entry to the Tower of Silence in Mumbai, even though her father’s last rights were performed there.  She approached Gujarat High Court against this discrimination.

The Gujarat High Court stated in 2012 that due to the Special Marriage Act, (applicable where two individuals from different faiths marry), her religion had changed to that of her husband. She is no longer a Parsi and is now a Hindu. She took the case to the Supreme Court against the Gujarat High Court’s judgment which claimed that Ms Goolrukh Gupta ceased to be a Parsi after her marriage to a Hindu. Chief Justice Misra stated that a woman is not mortgaged to her husband after marriage, her individual identity as well as religious identity are maintained under the Special Marriage Act.

The Chief Justice further said that only a woman can choose to follow or curtail her religious identity, she has that freedom of choice under the Special Marriage Act. If only such freedom of choice, identity and equality were granted to members of all religions and faith.

“We welcome capital punishment for child rapists” in TOI Blog

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, wants death as punishment to rapists. This extreme sentiment felt 8 months ago by Mr Chouhan has now taken civic action. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2016 Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of rape cases in the country. In the past two months there has been a sharp increase in rape crimes, and on this Sunday the Madhya Pradesh state cabinet passed a proposal for amendment of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for harsher punishments for rape, molestation, stalking, and sexual harassment. The proposal has approved the appeal for death penalty of raping a girl child 12 years old or younger, and for convicts convicted of gang rape. There is also an amendment in the IPC to increase fine and punishment for rape convicts.

After the Cabinet meeting Finance Minister of MP Jayant Malaiya stated that there should be provisions for harsher punishment under IPC sections 376 (rape) and 493 (cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage). “The recommendation is to impose a fine of Rs 1 lakh for such crimes in addition to harsher punishment for stalking, harassment, rape, and capital punishment for those convicted of rape and gang rape of children aged 12 years and below,” Malaiya said. “For this, the proposal is to add a subsection 376A IPC and 376D (gang rape) IPC. Punishment should be increased under section 493A also.”

Even though Madhya Pradesh might have passed the amendment for this bill the result may not be predictable as it will have to be passed by both houses of Parliament due to the request of capital punishment. A proposal for amendment of these two sections will be presented in the assembly during the winter session. After it is passed in the House, it will be sent to the President for assent.

After the infamously heinous Nirbhaya rape case public demand was to make it safer for women to leave her household without fear for her life or integrity. Another demand was to have stricter and swifter punishable action against criminals, and for more effective criminal proceedings in court. It was during that time that Indian nationals and eminent politicians demanded capital punishment for rapists, Mr Chouhan is one of them. Yet Madhya Pradesh has decided to approve the amendment after the state had come under criticism over rape incidents. The greatest trigger being when a 19 year old UPSC aspirant was raped when returning home from coaching. Her FIR registration was delayed and it led to the suspension of some police officers. In 2014 MP reported 5,076 rape cases, which was 14 percent of the total rape incidents reported in the country.

Yet the proposal has narrowed down to specifics, it will be applicable to a child under the age of 12 and the child should be a girl. The biggest flaw with this amendment is that the rape or molestation of boys is not taken into account. Amod Kanth, former police officer and founder of NGO Prayas said, “When we conducted a national study on child abuse in 2007, along with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, we found that there were as many male victims of child abuse as female.” It is time to forget about gender when it comes to rape, justice for everybody should be on an equal basis irrespective of their differences.

“The power of a mother: from Manushi Chillar to Majid Khan” in TOI Blog

India is a nation whose people value their mother with reverence, from the portrayal of deities in powerful and caregiving roles to men folding their hands in obeisance to ‘lakshmi’. A country which terms its nation as ‘Bharat Mata’ is a rare find in this technologically advancing world. The power of a mother is undeniable, her tears can bring her son back from the abyss and her values can make a woman globally acclaimed.The power of a mother is undeniable, her tears can bring her son back from the abyss and her values can make a woman globally acclaimed.

After a 17 year drought, India’s Manushi Chhillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 title in China. The previous winner was Priyanka Chopra, in her winning answer, Priyanka stated that her idol is Mother Theresa. Manushi, after 17 years, also gave a response based on the value of mother’s which received a huge applause from the audience. The question asked was, “Which profession deserves the highest salary and why?” The 20-year-old said, “A mother deserves the highest respect. It’s just not about cash but also the love and respect that you give to someone. My mother has been a huge inspiration. it is the mother’s job that deserves the biggest salary.”

This reply has awoken the people of India to embrace their cultural values and put their beloved mother’s on the pedestal they deserve yet are rarely acknowledged for.

It has been the argument of feminists that housewives are the largest unpaid workers globally, resulting in work done worth billions of dollars yet not recognised in our economy. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed that an average woman in India spends five hours a day in unpaid work, Indian men spent under 51.8 minutes a day. If the same woman has children from the age range of 1 to 6 years of age, the workload hours increase. Yet the term ‘housewife’ is frowned upon, a mother’s work is thought to be trivial, and her life imagined to be a ‘waste’.

Even if the work of a mother is thought to be a backbreaking task the entire process is imagined to have no economic value whatsoever, even though motherhood helps prepare kids for the national and international labour market. Yet all the efforts that a mother puts into the household, giving her love to her child are not disregarded. On one hand, where a mother’s love brought the coveted Miss World title back to India, a mother’s love also brought back a son from the brink of self and national destruction.

The effect of the love of a mother on her child is profound. Footballer Majid Khan who joined Lashkar-e-Taiba returned home after seeing a video of his mother crying for his return. Majid was seen at the funeral of Muzamil Manzoor, a militant killed during a gunfight in Kund. A week after he announced on Facebook that he was joining the militant ranks he returned. J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed Majid’s decision to return home.

‘’A mother’s love prevailed. Her impassioned appeal helped in getting Majid, an aspiring footballer, back home. Every time a youngster resorts to violence, it is his family which suffers the most,’’ she tweeted. Shortly after the return of Majid Khan, a 16-year-old boy heeded to his parents’ call and returned home in Chimmer village.
Seeing the positive effect that has been created by these videos of mothers telling their sons to come back home, many other mothers of terrorist sons have started doing the same.

In response, there are sons who are returning back home and aren’t being arrested. The government of J&K has declared that there will be no penalty for first-time offenders of any crime. In this manner, we can see that the role of a caregiver isn’t limited to our conventional belief of mother, but is also by the government. This different approach to rehabilitation of the youth, the belief that there is still hope, and the understanding that there is a gap in approach between the Indian government and Kashmiri youth has brought about a new approach.

The question still arises that with the hullabaloo surrounding Manushi Chillar’s response, to the return of children from terrorist groups, are we truly deserving to be called a nation who respects their mother in the 21st century? Compared to Western countries where children tend to live in nuclear families and leave their residence at the tender age of 18 years old, the attachment to parents isn’t as strong as in India.

Or yet that was the case until at least a decade ago, the new age trend is for Indian children to be educated outside of India and continue to live there, Indian children are leaving their parents alone. To achieve the dream of being successful in life, where success is measured in terms of international standards of income, the primary caregiver falls behind. Perhaps it is time to follow what we preach, not just say that we love our mothers but be there to care for our caregivers at a time that matters the most.

“Air pollution: Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there” in TOI Blog

When the pollution level was at hazardous for 20 days straight the government didn’t act. It took one day of smog and countless number of accidents for the government of New Delhi to wake up and begin planning to curb pollution. When the pollution is visible, makes breathing and eating difficult is when actions are taken. What most people don’t know is that pollution is high for most of the year, and indoor pollution level is more than outdoor pollution. A delayed reaction to pollution is equivalent to no action taken whatsoever, but there are small changes that we can make to help our environment.

The effect of pollution is most harmful for the elderly, young children, and especially more for the child in the mother’s womb. Pregnant mothers who face Delhi’s terrible pollution levels are at a higher risk to give birth to an asthmatic child. More and more people are prone to lung infections, persistent cough, inflammations of the skin, the risk and statistic of heart attacks increases manifold. Public and government school children who go to school during these pollution days have no protection whatsoever, windows are broken or open and so are classroom doors. This means that apart from the 3 day holiday this month that the government issued as a protection notice, the rest of the month children have to inhale life threatening pollutants into their lungs. There is no need to pollute the developing lungs of the future of our nation, reduced lung function also affects the performance of the mind. Pollution decreases performance and activity of the brain, so smog isn’t only in the air it’s also in the mind.

Pollution is more indoors due to the fumes from cooking oil, the gas stove, incense and mosquito repellants. There is limited ventilation, there are some preventative measures that can be used at home. Instead of lighting candles and incense sticks, light a lamp at the temple. Install powerful exhaust fans in the kitchen, and indoor plants to act as natural air purifiers. The unfortunate scenario is that air purifiers are at an extremely hiked price, for a middle class or underprivileged family it becomes an expensive added expenditure. Yet whoever can buy these purifiers, and face masks should do so. Keep checking the pollution levels on a daily basis, and if a mother fears that it’s too polluted and schools aren’t closed, then keep the child indoors. There is nothing more important than living a complete and healthy life.

Doctors suggest people should leave the city during dangerous pollution levels, so does the government, so do armchair pollution experts. It is a good solution, unfortunately it isn’t a feasible solution. There are many responsibilities that a person has in Delhi, whether it’s their job, or their education everything cannot be left for 3 – 4 months. Also it isn’t possible for a large population of our national capital to afford migrating for chunks of a year to another city. Rehabilitation isn’t a feasible solution, economically or even socially.

The solution shouldn’t be to displace a major portion of our population from the capital of our nation, a place where nation building decisions are made. The solution should be to make our people re-habilitate our Delhi, to create a feeling of compassion instead of fear by stopping this pollution problem once and for all.

The Delhi government started the odd-even formula last year, this year it has been rejected. The reason for rejection is the exemption for women and 2-wheelers. This is a fear that has been called out by anti-feminists and pro-humanists, when women empowerment becomes a bias to put women at a higher pedestal than other genders, when women empowerment is confused with special treatment, and when women empowerment is only done for the appeasement of the vote banks. I am sure that the women of Delhi will agree that for the healthy and long life of millions of Delhiites they can stop driving and start taking public conveyance, that there are other ways to look at the safety of women, and that when it comes to the safety of women major rules haven’t been implemented. The safety of women isn’t guaranteed by a woman driving a car, it’s by the installation of CCTV cameras, of rules, laws and regulations for her safety, and for proper lighting in parks and on roads. If someone drives a car it doesn’t mean that they are safe!

Pollution levels didn’t hike to the level that they did last year during Diwali, fortunately due to the temporary ban in distribution of crackers. Yet the common knowledge is that pollution travels from the villages of Punjab and Haryana due to crop burning. This air travels to Delhi, and is landlocked until the winds circulate the air.

Strict measures need to be taken in Punjab and Haryana to curb these activities, during metro construction water should be poured so that particulate matter from dust doesn’t circulate, and holidays should be declared for offices and schools when pollution levels are too dangerous. But the battle against pollution is a far off struggle, and the most that can be done is a mother can take over the household and protect her unborn fetus, her infant, and her child from a short lived future by taking small steps at home.

‘Love Jihad’: Akhila alias Hadiya & the safety of our nation’s daughters

When a Muslim boy marries a non-Muslim girl and feigns love to convert her to Islam it’s called ‘Love Jihad’, a similarly common tactic by some Christian cults is ‘Love Bombing’. The Hadiya lawsuit put the spotlight on “love jihad”. Akhila Ashokan, a 24-year-old homeopathic doctor converted to Islam and renamed herself Hadiya Shefin, she married Shafin Jahan even after her family’s dissent. It’s alleged she was recruited and brainwashed by the Islamic State terrorist group and her husband was their pawn terrorist. Akhila’s marriage with Shafin Jahan was declared annulled by lower court after the girl’s father complained that her conversion to Islam wasn’t simply a case of ‘love marriage’ but of ‘love jihad’. Her father, a retired military man Ashokan KM, challenged the validity of the marriage in the high court and got the relationship annulled.

The NIA stated in the Supreme Court that non-Muslim girls are lured, converted and finally sent to Syria to join ISIS, victims are most popularly found on college campus. In September 2012 two girls stated that they had been forced to convert by Muslim youths. The young men were members of a student organization and were subsequently arrested without bail. There are YouTube videos which show rescued girls who share their horrific experience of surviving Love Jihad, most of them Keralites. Times Now has also released “love jihad” tapes. Many similar situations have been reported by women.

One example is of Nimisha Fathima, which is widely shared on the internet. She married into a family of Christian converted Muslims, her husband, husband’s brother and his wife have all fled the country with Nimisha. Nimisha’s Mother has requested an investigation into Love Jihad as the last communication she had with her daughter was in 2016 June when Nimisha was eight months pregnant. It’s believed that her daughter may be in a remote location of Afghanistan in an attempt to join ISIS. Similar reports of Love Jihad activities have emerged from Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Love jihad isn’t new, the term has been newly conceptualized but the process has been underway for centuries. Now the rewards for a successful conversion for the purpose of jihad have changed. The most important reasons that conversion to Islam are sought after are the following:

1. To increase the Muslim population and spread the word of Islam globally

2. To deploy procreated children in terrorist organizations

3. Financial gain from Muslim organizations for successful conversions

4. Creating pornographic films and marketing them thereby threatening the victims to remain silent, as well as selling those films in Gulf countries

5. The victims are transported and sold to Gulf countries as sex-slaves. The price of virgin girls is extremely high in these slave-markets

Prize money is involved in Gulf countries. Non-Muslims are being converted on mass scale and given money for conversion, especially in the Philippines. A few decades ago a large sum for the same was provided to converters, now the prize money amount is reduced. But for a poor person it’s good enough. In India the reason for conversion isn’t money but the belief that there will be a place in Heaven reserved for their ‘good deed’.

When it comes down to the infamous Hadiya case, the Supreme Court has observed that there is no law which states that a girl cannot marry a criminal. But the Akhila’s case isn’t just about marrying a criminal committed of a petty crime, it’s about ‘psychological hijacking’, it’s about terrorism, and it’s a question of our national security. Even though we live in a modern society and it is the era of recognizing human rights, have we forgotten about human protection in the process? There are susceptible, young and innocent girls that are being brainwashed by terrorist organizations. They are marrying for love while their criminal counterparts are marrying to convert more people into jihad. In this case if Akhila’s father is able to foresee said difficulties and shows concern for her only child is he to be vilified?

Akhila’s guardian Zainaba stated that the marriage was arranged, that Akhila and her husband met a month prior to the wedding. Is it not then conspicuous that Akhila is more willing to live with a husband whom she has barely met, going against her father’s wishes of taking a rational decision towards marriage, and is fighting for someone she doesn’t know. What pushed a girl like Akhila alias Hadiya to take the decision to be under Zainaba’s guardianship and be married within a month? Who had told her that such is a necessity to live a wholesome life? It is not

difficult to see that the girl was not able to make a conscientious choice regarding her marriage to her spouse, and has been influenced to take this step as well, if such is the case. Until Shafin Jahan’s connections to Islamic terrorist organizations are cleared by intelligence personnel the safety of Akhila cannot be guaranteed. The safety of the daughters of our nation is primary, and it’s time to educate our daughters about the possibilities of entrapment.

“Reservation of Women should be above party politics” in TOI Blog

Google Doodle honouring India’s first female scientist Asima Chatterjee, Sushma Swaraj the roaring lioness speaking on behest of India and on India’s foreign policy in UNGA, and Sonia Gandhi urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that the Women’s Reservation Bill meets a logical conclusion.

After decades of delay in the domain of women empowerment, 2017 has been a fast paced roller coaster ride, and the current government is keeping us on our toes in the hopes of seeing more rapid progress and development.

If anybody delves into the history of India they would know that such slow progress was unwarranted and would find its roots deeply entrenched during the colonial period of British India. The British Empire didn’t want the citizens of our nation rising to a respectable level. So our legal system barely budged as a matter of fact it retrograded, and our manner of living was purely medieval. Yet out of the prevalent evils of casteism, and female subjugation some women of our nation became leading pioneers and are globally acclaimed. Here, we name a few:

1. Asima Chatterjee, a renowned Indian chemist’s 100th birthday was marked by Google with a Doodle on the 23rd of September. An organic chemist, Asima Chatterjee paved the way for Indian women in science and improved the odds of survival for patients with cancer, epilepsy, and malaria.

2. A pioneering botanist and cytogeneticist, Janaki Ammal, born 1897, is credited with putting sweetness in India’s sugarcane varieties. There is even a flower named after her, a delicate bloom in pure white called Magnolia Kobus Janaki Ammal, only a few nurseries in Europe cultivate the variety.

3. Born in 1865 in an extremely orthodox Brahmin family in Maharashtra, a 9 year old girl got married to a widower who was almost thrice her age. The girl later on became the first Indian woman to qualify as a doctor. Her name was Anandibai and her husband’s name was Gopalrao Joshi. Gopalrao, was determined to educate his wife when she expressed her wish to study medicine at the age of 14. Unfortunately, before she couldn’t practice medicine as she left her heavenly abode at the age of 22.

4. Dr Rukhmabai has the honour of being the first practicing lady doctor of India. Her journey was not an easy one, she was married at the age of 11, child bride Rukhmabai Bhikaji contested her husband’s claim to conjugal rights in an iconic court case that led to the passage of the Age of Consent Act in 1891. In 1888 despite the out-of-court settlement, this case became a landmark in colonial India for raising issues of age, consent and choice for women in marriage. Rukhmabai was ostracized by society, but she didn’t let this affect her ambition of being a doctor. She finished her studies and obtained a position as Chief Medical Officer in Surat. She never married again and remained active in social reform till her death in 1955 at the age of 91.

Though Dr. Rukhmabai’s case might have played a pivotal role in the Age of Consent Act, the age limit was only increased from 10 years to 12 years. India is still fighting the confusing interloped situation of child marriage and the Age of Consent, where logic dictates justice albeit practice otherwise. In the fight for proper judicial and legislative rights of women, Sonia Gandhi wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 20 September, 2017, urging him to take advantage of the majority BJP members in Lok Sabha to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. The women’s Reservation Bill plans for 33% reservation of women in the Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies, yet Panchayati Raj and Civil Bodies already have this reservation for women. If passed, India can be acknowledged as a leading global figure in political and participation equality of women. It can help surpass the few number of women that we hold dear as ‘leading figures’ or ‘pioneers’ who work so hard to break the glass ceiling, and provide the nation with many more women defying the patriarchal assigned roles.

Currently the global average for Women in Parliament is 22.4%, India stands at a meager 12%. On a global scale we rank 103rd from a list of 140 countries, and in Asia we rank 13th out of 18 countries. It’s about time that we quit hiding behind the curtain that India is one of the youngest nations in the world. After 70 years of Independence, a rapidly growing nation, and the vision of our founding fathers it’s time to take action and not hide behind a veil of excuses.

As shown by the stories of the pioneering scientist women of India reservation is not a necessity, but it is a good set up. The women scientist pioneers of India were fortunate to have husbands, or fathers support them at a time when women were prone to child marriage and pushed to bear children. The manner in which they broke the chains of society was with the help of the chain makers of society, the men in their lives. It’s time for us all to stand up and give our women a helping hand, in the form of a mother, father, sister, and brother.

“Uniform Civil Code: Drawing the line between religion and law” in TOI Blog

Uniform Civil Code

Amendments have been made in all personal laws, except for Muslim Personal Law which until recently witnessed the Supreme Court’s historic verdict against instantaneous Triple Talaq (Talaq e biddat). As expected, some Muslim religious groups have come together to oppose the Supreme Court’s judgment stating that it interferes with their religion. Massive hullabaloo’s have been ensuing for decades due to religious and judicial discrimination, where do we draw the line?

The infamous Shah Bano case of 1985 was presented in front of a five judge bench, they unanimously decided to overturn the appeal and keep with the High Court’s decision to provide maintenance to 70 year old estranged wife Shah Bano. This decision caused uproar amongst orthodox Muslims who said “This is an attack on our personal law, this is an attack on our religion.” The fear wasn’t limited to one court case, but the subsequent fear of diminishing practices and rituals which they have been practicing in the name of Islam. The fear was overturned with a law which allowed maintenance to be paid only for the period of ‘iddat’. Wasn’t this religious appeasement taking precedence above human rights, above gender equality? It turned out to be a victory of religious groups, and failure of law.

The main conflict that personal laws face is the prejudice and upkeep of patriarchal norms which are in many cases unrelated to the religion that they have risen from. With the exception of Muslim Personal Law, all other personal laws are inching towards an egalitarian approach of treating women with the dignity and respect she deserves. There has come an understanding that maintenance is required by a dependent spouse, a majority of these cases are of women who are dependent on their husband. An understanding has also arisen in the form of changing divorce laws, domestic violence laws, and moreover property succession laws. From what can be seen now none of the religions of India whether it is Hinduism, Christianity, and Parsi’s are facing a threat to their existence. Each religious group celebrates special occasions with full zeal and in respect to their customs and practices, now it’s just done without gender inequality.

In the Supreme Court Talaq e biddat was termed by the opposing counsel as ‘sinful but legal’. Isn’t the word ‘sin’ enough in terms of religion to keep one away from an act that is reprehensible by God?

The question not only arises regarding the process of Talaq e biddat, but when a husband realizes that in a fit of anger he has made a mistake and the toil his now estranged wife has to go through. The aftermath is the horrifying and well known as ‘Niqaah halala’. These funny rules do not empower women, nor does it do justice to a relationship which with each hurdle diminishes the chance to be salvaged.

Whenever a religious group will come forward to take a stand against the Supreme Court’s decision I would like to remind them of the following reasons as to why talaq e biddat is unconstitutional, and an insult to women everywhere. Talaq e biddat doesn’t respect women, it is derogatory, it doesn’t allow a husband and wife to exit the union as they had entered it which is through an equal opportunity to make a sound decision, and it especially isn’t endorsed in religious documents with the vehemence with which its being fought for.

We are living in a progressive world, globally there are so many countries that does not accept Talaq e biddat as a legal method of having a divorce, India being a so called progressive nation is the one country which is lagging behind! Up till now this was done due to appeasement for votes, I hope and believe that the appeasement done henceforth will be based on moral integrity and will create gender justice.

“Nirmala Sitharaman: Should feminists be happy?” in TOI Blog

Niramala Sitharaman is India’s second female Defence Minister, before her Indira Gandhi held the same portfolio and was the Prime Minsiter as well. But Nirmala Sitharaman is the first fulltime female Defence Minister of India.

Recently India has been witness to historic and landmark changes, the tide is turning when it comes to women.

1. Maternity leave duration has increased to surpass most developed nations

2. Triple Talaq has been banned for 6 months during which the Central Government is expected to pass a law banning Triple Talaq for good

3. The appointment of Nirmala Sitharaman as the first fulltime female Defence Minister


Indira Gandhi was the Iron Lady of India, well known for her strong tactical methods of fighting terrorism. Nationally, she had given the green light to extreme measures to claimed terrorists that were murdered in a bloodbath at the Golden Temple – Amritsar, in Operation Bluestar. She also took forward the nuclear program of India started under the leadership of Nehru, she gave verbal authorization of an underground nuclear test called “Smiling Buddha” in Rajasthan which caused ire to then Pakistan Prime Minsiter Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. On an international front, Operation Meghdoot was a success in the Siachen conflict. Not only that, but under Indira Gandhi’s leadership West Pakistan was liberated from East Pakistan, without Indira Gandhi’s support perhaps the creation of Bangladesh as a separate country would not have been possible. Indira Gandhi was a swift decision maker, tough, and unflinching in her use of strategized force against any threat whether internal or external. To top it off, Indira Gandhi was a woman and one of the strongest Defence Minsiter’s the nation has seen since its conception.

Apparently the media has forgotten our rich history of having a female leader who had proven much more effective and tougher than most defence ministers, all of whom were men. This forgetfulness has been keeping our newly appointed Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. The question that everybody is asking – has she been appointed because she is a woman? Is this entire situation staged and politically motivated? If Nirmala were a man she wouldn’t be asked so many questions, most of which are based on her gender and her effectiveness as a leader.

To the people who are bringing up her gender as an issue I would like to state the obvious, patriarchy is a deep rooted social evil in India. It is a complicated issue and to have a role model, a woman in the role of Defence Minister which is highly stigmatized as being a male dominated occupation, is called breaking the glass ceiling. In this lifetime we are witness to glass ceiling in politics, and this glass ceiling has been broken directly by the Prime Minister Office. Our BJP government is traditionally believed to be an extremely patriarchal mindset, and politics a field where people are appointed based on the pull that they have. Nirmala Sitharaman has been able to bypass both categories, this is a milestone in the success of women of our nation.

There are currently two women in India who are extremely powerful: Sushma Swaraj the Foreign Minister and Niramala Sitharaman in the CCS (Cabinet Committee of Security). They consist of Narendra Modi’s CCS which has a total of five members including himself, with Rajnath Singh as Home Minster and Arun Jaitley as Minister of Finance. If one is observant than one will notice that the male counterparts in the CCS (with the exception of the Prime Minister) are superseded by women who have been provided much more powerful roles.

So why is Nirmala Sitharaman a viable candidate as the Minister of Defence? Nirmala Sitharaman has worked as a member of the National Commission for Women, is a Rajya Sabha member, and was a Minister of State for Commerce. She had started her path as a spokesperson for BJP in the election which saw Narendra Modi win with a landslide. Since then she gained popularity in BJP and was discovered by Sushma Swaraj in the NCW and has been known as a woman who gets work done immediately. Sitaraman has emerged as the Minister of Defence directly noticed and appointed by the Prime Minsiter Office due to her virtue of being a go-getter and a great worker for the nation, tokenism has no role in this appointment. Of course there will be a lot of learning to do, she might take a good 4 – 5 months of learning (just like her predecessors) before being able to grasp the in’s and outs of her profile, but she is smart enough, capable enough and dedicated enough to do justice.

As is famously said in India, you can tell the flavor of rice by taking one look at a grain. Recently, our newly appointed Defence Minister was seen in China for a BRICS meeting and she engaged in discussion on Doklam with her counterparts. Her official commencement of duties is from the 6th of September, 2017 but she jumped headlong into her role beforehand showing her commitment and understanding of the great task before her.

“Talaq, Talaq, Talaq…oops! I made a mistake!” in TOI Blog

I call ‘talaq-e-biddat’ or triple talaq a heinous crime on the dignity of women. Supreme Court India, banned it for 6 months. I say this from a perspective of a woman, and I can surely say this from a humanistic standpoint. It’s humorous to see that specific organizations are clamoring to bring legality for a ‘sinful’ act, a hypocritical method of upholding the tenets of a religion.

Muslim women in India have been fighting against this crime of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ since its conception before Independence, from a time where it was termed as ‘Muslim Personal Law.’ The law follows mostly customs and practices instead of religion. There has been negligible change in this law since its founding, the infamous Shah Bano case where a 70+ year old woman went to court for maintenance was overturned due to the outburst of orthodox Muslims. ‘Hindu Personal Law’ which is on the same tangent as ‘Sikhs’, ‘Jain’ and ‘Buddhist’ personal law has seen many changes, social evils have been removed and major upheavals for the benefit of women empowerment has taken place. I am not saying that Hindu Personal Law is the epitome of equality for men and women, but at least it is more susceptible to change. At least there is a ray o f hope in a cloud of darkness.

The victory of Muslim women in the 6 month freedom from ‘talaq-e-biddat’ is seen as a great victory, the short term eradication has given respite to women of the 21st Century, in the fastest developing nation of the world! This shows the severity of the problem we are facing. The power of social stigma and patriarchal regime is prevalent in all matters, even in fundamental rights.

What I think should be the way forward

When a marriage falls apart it has nothing to do with being a Hindu or a Muslim, it is purely a social and financial problem. After being divorced a woman finds herself without support. Other personal laws have been modified to include women in restitution of financial rights after a divorce, in the form of maintenance of herself and her child. In Shariat Law a woman’s right is nullified simply because she is a Muslim. All women should come under the purview of one umbrella – one nation, one law.

Talaq-e-biddat is unjust, not needed, and a menacing plague upon Islamic women.

To know more about Talaq, Talaq, Talaq…oops! I made a mistake!