This is the fourth in a series of video interviews conducted by sister publication Maatram, highlighting the difficulties faced by women under the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).
Article 16 of the constitution states that existing written and unwritten laws, such as the MMDA, will continue in force even over constitutional law. There is currently a campaign for the reform of personal laws, with some calling for the repeal of Article 16 altogether.
Read below for an edited transcript of the video interview, in English:
I married when I was 18 years old. On the day of the wedding, my husband left me. Now, he’s re-married and living with someone else. I am living without anyone’s help.
My husband asked for a divorce and filed a case in the Quazi court. I asked for three types of compensation– maintenance during iddah (the three month ‘period of waiting’) wife maintenance, and compensation, from the Quazi judge. My husband didn’t accept this. He said that since I didn’t even live with him for one day, he didn’t want to pay compensation, but rather wanted to resolve this situation peacefully. He filed a case with the Board of Quazis for a divorce.
However before the divorce was granted, he married someone else. At the Board of Quazi hearings, the judge asked, ‘Your husband wanted to resolve this peacefully. Why didn’t you want to?’ During the past 5 years, I have been struggling to get the types of compensation I asked for. I can’t manage any more. Without justice, I cannot resolve this peacefully.
The Board of Quazis then said my file was not clear, and I would have to clear it and come back. This is true, because the previous Quazi judge maintained just one file for the three types of compensation I applied for. Normally, you would maintain three files, so that’s the issue. However he is a good Quazi judge, working for justice.
Now, there is a new Quazi judge handling my case, who is maintaining three files. After a long struggle, I was finally granted a divorce in 2014. On the subject of compensation, my husband kept begging the judge to reduce and further reduce the sum he had to pay, and the judge just nodded his head in agreement.
I asked the judge, “If I had asked for a huge amount, do you think my husband would have liked it?” The judge told me I was talking too much.
The judge finally granted me Rs. 500,000 in compensation, but the husband never gave me this amount, nor the regular wife maintenance I asked for. I only received maintenance during the iddah period. Now, I don’t even know what stage my case is at. There is no point in continually going to courts and back. I don’t think I will find justice. My father passed away, and I live alone with my mother. I don’t know what to do.