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Fact Checking Government claims on ‘Social Empowerment of Women’

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The BJP government made claims about promoting social empowerment of women. Here is a fact-check.

The BJP government published an infographic on the 48-months portal that makes four claims about social empowerment of women. This article is a fact check of the claims.

What about the Triple Talaq bill?

The first claim is that a ‘bill that empowers Muslim women against triple talaq passed in Lok Sabha.

A response in Lok Sabha from December 2017 states that ‘the Government has decided to bring in a legislation, namely, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, which would protect the rights of married Muslim women and children and to prohibit divorce by pronouncing triple talaq by their husbands. The Government is of the view that the issue arises from the humanitarian concept of gender justice, gender equality and dignity of women and not arising from faith and religion’.

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the matter of (Shayara Bano Vs. Union of India and Others [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 118 of 2016] and other connected matters), on 22nd August, 2017, in a majority judgment of 3:2 set aside the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’- triple talaq. The Court found that the said practice of divorce is manifestly arbitrary in the sense that the marital tie can be broken capriciously and whimsically by a Muslim husband without any attempt at reconciliation so as to save it.

In order to prevent the continued harassment meted out to the married Muslim women by their husbands, who are still resorting to talaq-e-biddat to divorce them in spite of the same having been set aside by the Supreme Court, the Government has introduced, a Bill, namely the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, in Lok Sabha in December 2017 and the same was passed by that House on the same day. Presently, the Bill is pending in Rajya Sabha. 

As per official government sources, the above bill is pending consideration in Rajya Sabha and the practice of divorce by triple talaq (i.e., talaq- e- biddat) was continuing, the government felt an urgent need to take immediate action to prevent such practice. Accordingly, the government passed an ordinance to that effect as the parliament was not in session. The ordinance was promulgated on the 19th September, 2018. 

However, when asked if the government has consulted with any Muslim organizations on this matter, the answer was a ‘No’ as per a response in the Lok Sabha.  There has also not been any review of the impact that this law on married Muslim women. Hence the effectiveness of the legislation remains unverified.

Claim: Bill that empowers Muslim women against triple talaq passed in Lok Sabha.
Fact: The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, was introduced in Lok Sabha on the 28th December, 2017 and the same was passed by that House on the same day. An ordinance was also passed to give effect to the provisions of the bill pending its passage in Parliament. Hence it is TRUE that the government has introduced this bill and later promulgated an ordinance to give effect to the provisions of this bill. However, the impact of the bill in empowering the women cannot be measured for want of any official data or review. Hence the impact remains UNVERIFIED.

Can Muslim women now perform Haj without a male guardian?

The second claim is that ‘Muslim women can now perform haj without a male guardian’.

The annual report of the Ministry of Minority Affairs (2017-18) states that the work related to management of Haj pilgrimage including administration of the Haj Committee Act, 2002 and Rules made there under has been transferred from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2016. Accordingly, a separate Division in the Ministry headed by Joint Secretary (Haj) has been set up to look after the Haj affairs’.

The annual report also states that ‘Lady Pilgrims: The Government’s decision to lift ban on Muslim women for going to Haj without Mehram (male companion) has received encouraging response.  A total of 1304 women have applied from across the country (11 States/ Union Territories) for Haj without Mehram. It has been decided to select these pilgrims for Haj 2018 without qurrah’.

The Ministry constituted a Committee to review Haj policies of the Government for Haj 2013-17 and to suggest framework for new Haj policies for next five years. The Committee has submitted its report in October 2017. Some of the recommendations of the committee include allowing women above 45 years to travel in a group of four without a male Mehram provided their Maslak (school of thought) permits and retaining priority in selection of pilgrims of age of 70 years or more.

Claim: Muslim women can now perform haj without a male guardian.
Fact: Muslim women can now perform Haj without a male Mehram if they are above the age of 45, provided their school of thought permits. The claim is MISLEADING since it is not applicable to all Muslim women and is subject to certain conditions.

Are women given preference in PMAY?

The third claim is that ‘preference given to women in Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)’.

The PMAY has multiple components that address different regions and types with the goal of improving housing. Under the PMAY Urban, there are:

  1. In-situ rehabilitation of existing slum dwellers using land as a resource through private participation
  2. Credit Linked Subsidy
  3. Affordable Housing in Partnership
  4. Subsidy for Beneficiary-led individual house construction/enhancement

While preference for women is not mentioned under all the categories, it is mentioned under two of these. The scheme guidelines of PMAY-U state that, under the Credit linked Subsidy, ‘preference under the scheme, subject to beneficiaries being from EWS/LIG segments, should be given to Manual Scavengers, Women (with overriding preference to widows), persons belonging to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Other Backward Classes, Minorities, Persons with disabilities and Transgender’.

For the Affordable Housing Partnership, it states that ‘preference in allotment may be given to physically handicapped persons, senior citizens, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minority, single women, transgender and other weaker and vulnerable sections of the society. While making the allotment, the families with differently-abled persons and senior citizens may be allotted house preferably on the ground floor or lower floors’.

Under the PMAY Rural, the guidelines being followed are the same as the Indira Awas Yojana, implemented during the UPA. The document states that ‘first priority should be given to families of manual scavengers, including those rehabilitated and rehabilitated bonded labourers. Thereafter the priority to be adhered to is as follows:- (i) Women in difficult circumstances, including widows, those divorced or deserted, women victims of atrocities and those whose husbands are missing for at least three years, and, women headed families’.

While at a scheme level, preference is being granted to women in both rural and urban regions, the data of beneficiaries cannot be analysed in order to come to a conclusion with regards to the number of female beneficiaries of the scheme.

Claim: Preference given to women in Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
Fact: At a policy level, preference is being given to women but data to prove the same is not available.  Hence, the claim remains UNVERIFIED.

Have passport rules been relaxed for single mothers?

The last claim is that ‘passport rules relaxed for single mothers’.

In order to streamline, liberalize and ease the process of issue of passport, the Ministry of External Affairs has taken a number of steps in the realm of passport policy to ease the process of issue of passports. One such change is that the online passport application form now requires the applicant to provide the name of father or mother or legal guardian, i.e., only one parent and not both. This would enable single parents to apply for passports for their children and to also issue passports where the name of either the father or the mother is not required to be printed at the request of the applicant.

Claim: Passport rules relaxed for single mothers.
Fact: The online passport application form now requires the applicant to
provide the name of father or mother or legal guardian, i.e., only one parent and not both. This implies that single parents can now apply for passports for their children. Hence, the claim is TRUE.

This story is part of a larger series on the 4-years of the Modi government. This series has been made possible with the flash grant of the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN). Read the rest of the stories in this series here

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