Under Islamic law as it is practiced in India, a woman cannot divorce a husband like men do by just saying talaq thrice unless the husband has given her the right to do it. This glaring gender discrimination in the religious laws was put into spotlight when this 16 year old girl from Bengal uttered triple talaq to divorce her husband who refused to allow her to study further.
Mampi, a resident of Mullickpur Mandirbazar, around 55km from Kolkata along the Lakshikantapur train line, was thrust into marriage by her parents in 2015. With three daughters to marry off and two sons to rear, Sarjul Gharami — a tea stall owner — was glad when he received the proposal from a family in Tekpanja village in Mandirbazar, about 6km away. Though Mampi, then in Class IX, wanted to study further, she was unable to wriggle out. She, however, got her in-laws and husband to agree to her continuing studies.
But Mampi’s in-laws soon reneged on the promise and began objecting to her attending school. They ridiculed her desire to study and thrust domestic work on her. Undeterred, Mampi persisted and passed her Madhyamik exam this year. But when she told her husband she wished to get admitted to Class XI at an HS school, he refused. Her repeated pleas failed to move him and her in-laws. When she visited her parents’ home some days later, she told them she wanted to study and would not return to the husband’s house.
Last month, she got admitted to Krishnachandrapur High School at Mathurapur, around 9 km from her home. Seeing her eagerness to get back to school, headmaster Chandan Kumar Maity waived the admission and tuition fees.
When news of her admission reached her in-laws, the family stormed into her parent’s home and began berating them for daring to send the girl back to school. They asked Mampi to pack her bags to return with them. With Sarjul Gharami and Sahera Bibi standing by their daughter, the situation turned nasty. Mampi could not take it anymore. She walked up to her husband and shouted “talaq” thrice. That silenced everyone. “My in-laws were stunned. They left after that, but my parents stood by me,” said Mampi.
“We made a mistake by marrying her off against her wish. She can stay here and study as long as she wants,” her mother said.
While some members of the community have hailed the girl’s grit and drawn parallels with Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel laureate who had defied the Taliban’s diktat against women’s education, others have questioned her act, considered a male prerogative.
But Mampi Khatoon has decided to ignore the buzz and the barbs. “I have to get on with life and carve my path just like Malala did. We have to each fight our own battle,” she says with a maturity rare for her age.
Do not ask why a 16 year old girl is being forced to marry because it’s India and here child marriage is still very rampant in many communities regardless of faith.
Good to see Mampi getting support at least from her family and from a few in her community. Hope many others will get inspired from her story and escape the shackles of patriarchal religious norms.