The dumping ground is in the background, spread over 132 acres of land in the heart of Mumbai, as Halima Sheikh talks. Calm and composed, a local field worker with the NGO Apnalaya, she narrates stories of sexual harassment, domestic violence and of women suffering in the area she grew up and now works in — Baiganwadi, a slum in Govandi.Poverty is visible here in the narrow streets, reed thin children playing in the dirt along the streets and ramshackle shanties in the name of homes.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A majority of the families here are Muslims, and, for women living in this grinding poverty, with little access to information or financial aid, the threat of triple talaq is a part of everyday life. The practice of men divorcing their wives by merely uttering the word talaq three times is common here and is even done over the phone at times.”The women here are not educated. Sometimes, they approach the local maulvis (clerics) who too endorse this practice,” Halima says.Women often come to the local conselling centre in terror, often battered and bruised. Even while seeking mediation there is anxiety about the way the husband will react. There is also a worry about what their own family members and neighbours will say. Sometimes they resort to what seems like an easier option – pouring kerosene over themselves.Exposing themselves to abuse, sexual violenceThe problem starts much before the divorce, its lurking threat itself makes women, who are completely dependent on their men, put up with extraordinary amount of abuse.”Sexual violence is very common and when women complain they are threatened with the prospect of triple talaq. Wives are generally too scared and come to us for help only when they cannot bear the abuse anymore,” shares Naseem Sheikh, a counsellor for Apnalaya in the area. Married at 14 and abandoned by her husband on the streets at 21, Naseem knows the problems firsthand, having raised four children single-handedly. The eldest of her four sons is now 17.”Most living here cannot afford to fight the cases in court, so they just keep quiet and move on with their lives,” Halima adds.A tool to inflict anxiety, agonyWhile domestic violence and sexual harassment is rampant, many women suffer constant mental agony as husbands remind them of their vulnerability during each fight. At the counselling centre that operates out of the Sion Hospital and is run by SNEHA (Society for Nutrition, Education & Health Action), women line up hoping to find a solution to their marital woes when all else fails.”There is constant anxiety and helplessness. The women go into severe depression. At times, they even suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. Triple talaq is used by a lot of husbands to constantly threaten their wives,” says Gauri Ambavkar, a coordinator at SNEHA’s counselling centre.She talks about a woman who came to the hospital complaining of aches all over her body. When tests were done, it was revealed that she was physically healthy. The pain was psychosomatic, brought on by stress and mental agony.It is this environment that women are forced to conduct their daily lives in. Unaware of their basic rights most don’t even consider fighting for them.”Imagine the constant anger that the women experience when divorce is yielded as a tool of harassment by the men. There is constant worry,” Ambavkar explains. She believes that it is this mental agony that is not directly addressed but does the most damage.Talaq uttered in a public toilet*Afreen Sheikh is a shy and diminutive 24-year-old. Her entire life is confined to the two-room house her family in Bainganwadi lives in. Reluctant to even make eye contact, her voice is no more than a whisper. She starts talking about how she was beaten and harassed soon after her marriage at 19 but breaks down.Three years after her marriage she was sent back to her parents as her husband was sexually dissatisfied with her. The divorce followed soon after. Her mother narrates, “One day her husband came to meet her near the public toilet that is five minutes away from our home. He uttered talaq three times and left. He is now married to another woman, but we heard she is unwell. He must suffer!”Afreen’s story, however, no longer raises an eyebrow. Her own father vigorously defends the validity of triple talaq. “There are times when women just don’t want to live with their husbands and ask for a divorce,” he says.How do you fight without money?Ayesha Khan (35) understands what Afreen is going through. Her husband deserted her six years back when she was three months pregnant. She asks what most women from her economic background would do. “We don’t have the money to even take the bus to Kurla. How do we fight for our rights in the court?”Her question could soon be answered by the Supreme Court, where two Muslim women and one Muslim women’s organisation — the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan — have reached, seeking abolition of the practice that is already banned in 22 other Muslim countries.But for now Afreen hopes to find solace in completing her education and Ayesha in raising her daughter from the money she makes working as a maid.*Name changed to protect identity

See the original post – 

Muslim women continue to live in terror of triple talaq