‘Talaq… And I Was Homeless In A Second’

Shazia Khan was just 26 when the word talaq uttered three times tore her life apart thirteen years ago. She is one of the many Muslim women who came forward last year when the government took up the issue of this instant form of divorce. On December 28, 2017, the Lok Sabha passed The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, making instant triple talaq in any form – spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp – illegal and void, with up to three years in jail for the husband. The Bill remains to be passed by the Rajya Sabha, with the NDA committed to getting it through and the Opposition adamant on referring it to a select committee. Meanwhile, here is Shazia’s story:   I was a teenager when my nikaah took place with a complete stranger from Pilibhit at my hometown Aligarh in 1993. I had no choice in this matter; destiny took me to Delhi. My husband, Aslam Khan, ran a small watch shop in Karol Bagh. We stayed with my husband’s aunt for some time and later bought our own house in East Delhi, after selling the village house. A month into my marriage, I got to know my husband was an alcoholic who would frequently pass out in public and would have to be carried home. Life went on, however, and I got pregnant less than a year into the marriage. I had a son, and my in-laws also moved in. We had another son later. One day, my husband sold the house and took a ₹36,000 advance from a buyer, a known bad character of our locality. I intervened and made sure the advance was returned. Later, I bought a plot in Mustafabad and built a house there. It was the turn of household items then. One day Aslam and I had an argument after he sold my mixer-grinder. It ended in silence with Aslam saying talaq three times. Our neighbour, Islam bhai, came and told me that I can’t live in the same house with my husband. “Aap yahan nahi reh sakte ho bhabhi (You cannot live here any longer),” he said. Just like that, I was homeless. I moved in with a cousin in Shahdara, Delhi, and called my brothers. We then filed a report of domestic cruelty against my husband, in-laws, my husband’s aunt and her son. Soon enough, my husband apologised and I agreed to go back. My first question, however, was, “How can we live together after talaq?” The answer was, “Marry him again”. This was my encounter with halala, the wedding of a divorced woman to someone else before she can remarry her first ex-husband. My halala husband was Rizwan, my husband’s friend. He was paid ₹1,000 for this deal. My only condition was that Rizwan would have no physical contact with me. As soon as I got back with Aslam, there was another shock waiting: the Mustafabad house had been sold. I was shattered, yet again. Somehow, I found the will to sort out this problem too. The property was registered in my name, so I took over the sale and took about ₹150,000 from the buyer. And ran, leaving even my kids with Aslam. I left for Aligarh, and from there Meerut, where I got a job at a doctor’s clinic. Years passed, till one day my younger son’s ill-health brought me face-to-face with Aslam again. He convinced me into living together again. We rented a flat in Delhi. It wasn’t over, though. One night I woke up to find my husband having sex with a eunuch. No words were exchanged this time, and it was really the end. I’ve been on my own since then, working one job after another to get by. The triple talaq bill is for women like me who’ve fought a losing battle against this practice all their lives.

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