Divorce, kinship, and errant wives: Islamic feminism in India, and the everyday life of divorce and maintenance

Dutta, Sagnik (2021) Divorce, kinship, and errant wives: Islamic feminism in India, and the everyday life of divorce and maintenance. Ethnicities, 21 (3). pp. 454-476. ISSN 14687968

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This article is an ethnographic exploration of a women’s sharia court in Mumbai, a part of a network of such courts run by women qazi (Islamic judges) established across India by members of an Islamic feminist movement called the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (Indian Muslim Women’s Movement). Building upon observations of adjudication, counselling, and mediation offered in cases of divorce and maintenance by the woman qazi (judge), and the claims made by women litigants on the court, this article explores the imaginaries of the heterosexual family and gendered kinship roles that constitute the everyday social life of Islamic feminism. I show how the heterosexual family is conceptualised as a fragile and violent institution, and divorce is considered an escape route from the same. I also trace how gendered kinship roles in the heterosexual conjugal family are overturned as men fail in their conventional roles as providers and women become breadwinners in the family. In tracing the range of negotiations around the gendered family, I argue that the social life of Islamic feminism eludes the discourses and categories of statist legal reform. I contribute to existing scholarship on Islamic feminism by exploring the tension between the institutionalist and everyday aspects of Islamic feminist movements, and by exploring the range of kinship negotiations around the gendered family that take place in the shadow of the rhetoric of ‘law reform’ for Muslim communities in India.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Gender | Islamic feminism | Kinship | Muslim Personal Law
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Gender Studies
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Human Rights
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Customs, Etiquette and Folklore
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Mr. Syed Anas
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2021 17:58
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 10:01
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796821999904
Funders: Gates Cambridge Scholarship, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Additional Information: I would like to thank the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. I am grateful for critical feedback on earlier versions of this paper from Iza Hussin and Saumya Saxena. I am also grateful to Romit Chowdhury for helpful comments on restructuring an earlier iteration of the paper. I am grateful to all members of the BMMA for their time and generosity. I remain awed by the resilience and courage of women litigants who I met during my fieldwork and whose lives were a motivation for writing this paper. All errors remain mine.
URI: https://pure.jgu.edu.in/id/eprint/130


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