May I say hats off to the bridegroom, without whose support this would not have been possible :)
Three negative reactions:
1. There have been comments that it is a publicity stunt! I say, may there be many more such publicity stunts :)
2. 'Very surprisingly, the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board president Shaista Amber has not welcomed the idea wholeheartedly. “Although women are known to have performed as Qazi and mufti in earlier times, it would be better if religious work is performed by men. Women can take over in the absence of men,” she said.' - What's wrong with this woman??? How is it better if religious work is performed by men? Hasn't History proved exactly the opposite!
3. 'The families of the bride and bridegroom had planned to have only women witnesses. But reportedly after the intervention of the woman member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Begum Ikhtidar Ali Khan, a male witness was included.'
Why was a male witness essential? Sounds more like they wish it was them and not Naish Hasan who was getting the publicity. Very disappointing reactions.
I think one way to empower all Indian women is to make Pre-Nuptial Contracts legal, even mandatory.
I saw a grey haired, wrinkled, sparkling eyed Muslim woman from Lucknow, on TV ages ago, and she said something about Islamic weddings, that every Muslim parents and daughters should know (the ignorant and the illiterate don't, I guess) : The Nikah is a contract where a woman can insist on a clause that provides for her demanding a divorce without losing her 'meher'. She can add other clauses, like the husband would not remarry without first divorcing her, the husband will not have the right to pronounce triple talaq or that she would get the custody of their children if there is a divorce.
So we do not necessarily need a Universal Civil Code (which upsets a lot of people), we simply allow every Indian woman of every religion the right to have pre-nuptial contract.
Take a look at what Catherine Zeta Jones has done.
"Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is rumored to have an infidelity clause in her prenup with Michael Douglas. Jones stands to pocket several million if Douglas is unfaithful. Since sleeping around isn't exactly rare in the acting world, this little clause would definitely motivate a fidelity doubletake."
And in UK...
Leading Islamic organisations and clerics in Britain have done much better. Hailed as the biggest change in Sharia law in Britain for 100 years, a married Muslim couple will now have equal rights. A husband will have to waive his right to polygamy, allowed under Islamic law, in the new contract which has been described as "revolutionary".
Quoting Samia Rehman: 'What better way to encourage social cohesion and tackle radicalisation than building families in a context of harmony and cooperation, where the rights of women are not only respected, but valued? Bringing up children in a positive, nurturing environment will do much to combat disaffection and alienation in future generations, and could help cut off the oxygen that fuels extremism.'
In India prenuptial contracts are not recognized by the law. 'One of the major objections to prenuptial contracts is the supposed sacred nature of Hindu marriage.' You can't get married while negotiating the terms of your divorce. But prenups are much more than divorce negotiations. I know many women helplessly hanging on to their marriages to straying husbands, in at least two cases the families and in one everybody knows that the husband is having an affair, but nobody can stop him. He does not want divorce, he wants the woman to sit at home and take care his parents while he has an affair with a girl young enough to be his daughter! And this is not his first affair. Catherine Zeta Jones' prenuptial contract has a clause that would interest these women, and maybe deter such men. (Obviously all this applies to wives also).
Well, so prenuptial are not about divorce they are about ensuring that the marriage vows are not completely disregarded or forgotten. Violence, alcohol addiction, infidelity are all condemned, but as of now you can only condemn. Prenuptial agreements can be deterrents in such situations, if not then at least the Contract can ensure some relief for the suffering party!
Again we will need legislation about the kind of terms the Contracts are permitted. 'Divorce if no male child within first two years.' or 'Divorce if no promotion.' will probably not be acceptable :)
Edited to add : I just read and loved this heartbeaking article by Nimmy who talks about Muslim women being deprived of their rights...all in the name of religion. It made me so sad, because it is easy to accept injustice if you are not intelligent, but if you are a smart, thinking woman it must be so terrible......Do take a look.