ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Critical Reflections on Muslim Marriage and Personal Law in India

Marriage and Its Discontents: Women, Islam and the Law in India by Sylvia Vatuk, New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2017; pp xviii + 273, ₹ 650.


This collection of essays, written by Sylvia Vatuk and published over a span of 15 years (2001–15), is based on ethnographic and archival research among Muslims in Chennai and Hydera­bad. It was inspired by an increasing unease with the prevailing tendency of popular journalistic and scholarly literature of condemning the fate of Muslim women to the personal law regime that “governs” them —where polygamy and unilateral divorce leave them bereft of any means of support, should their marriage be dissolved.

A central concern for most of the essays (with an exception or two) is the question of what happens if a marriage ends up in disarray; especially when the couple faces one another in a civil court, before a community council, the jamat or the imam of their neighbourhood mosque or in the office of a local qazi. During the course of her research, the author found it rare for a woman to directly file a civil lawsuit or make a criminal complaint against her husband or in-laws, unless she is led to do so by members of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working on woman’s issues or is taken there by a male relative who is familiar with the ways of the judicial system.

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Updated On : 7th Dec, 2018
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