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Supreme Court’s Decision to Ban “Triple Talaq” is a big Relief for India Muslim Women

The judgment of the Supreme Court said that triple talaq was "not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality."

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Triple talaq
Activists of various social organisations hold placards during a protest against "Triple Talaq" in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (VOA)
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  • The judgment of the Supreme Court is being hailed as a huge victory for India’s Muslim women
  • A panel of five judges representing India’s major faiths, namely, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism, delivered the verdict by a 3-2 majority on Tuesday
  • The judgment said it was arbitrary to allow a man to “break down marriage whimsically and capriciously.”

In a judgment that is being hailed as a huge victory for India’s Muslim women, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that the controversial practice of instant divorce is unconstitutional and un-Islamic.

“Triple talaq” as practiced in India, allowed Muslim men to unilaterally divorce their wives by saying the word “talaq,” or divorce, three times.

A panel of five judges representing India’s major faiths — Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism, delivered the landmark verdict by a 3-2 majority on Tuesday.

ALSO READIf discriminatory Triple Talaq struck down, then new Divorce Law will come, Centre tells Supreme Court

The judgment said that triple talaq was “not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality.” They said it was arbitrary to allow a man to “break down marriage whimsically and capriciously.”

Muslim clerics, however, had staunchly opposed overturning “triple talaq” saying that although the practice was undesirable, it was sanctioned by the Quran and courts could not interfere in matters that pertain to religion.

Zafaryab Jilani of the powerful All India Muslim Personal Law Board said the consequences of the court decision remain to be seen. “How far it will help the women, how far it will go against them?” he told a reporter.

Many Muslim clerics and leaders have called the campaign to overturn the practice a political ploy by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to take away Muslim identity.

PM Voices Support

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced support for putting an end to the Muslim divorce practice, saying it is necessary to correct an injustice to Muslim women.

The country’s Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, called it an important step forward. “Traditions are not set in stone and have to change with times and the time has come to give women equality,” she said.

In India, which has a secular constitution, each religion is allowed to have separate laws governing marriage, succession, adoption, and maintenance. Muslims are the country’s largest minority and have long said the court cannot interfere in these matters.

Abrupt end of marital life

In recent years, there had been growing complaints from Muslim women that three brief words, “talaq, talaq, talaq,” abruptly ended their marriage via conversation, letter, phone messages and WhatsApp, giving them no voice in an important decision.

The co-founder of the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, Zakia Soman, told VOA that it was a happy day for Muslim women who have suffered for the last 70 years. “The expectations of thousands of women were associated with this (case). So many have been eagerly awaiting to hear something positive from the Supreme Court.”

But she says the ruling marks just the beginning of a long battle for a social reform movement and gender justice for Muslim women in a range of areas such as property and inheritance rights and age of marriage of girls.
“It’s not now that everything is done. Armed with this judgment and some kind of legal protection, at least the mindset about legal rights for Muslim women has become accepted”, she said. (VOA)

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Triple Talaq Now Banned In India

While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched.

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India
Indian Muslim women talk while walking through a market in Ahmadabad, India. VOA

India’s government on Wednesday approved an ordinance to implement a top court ruling striking down the Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce.

The government decision came after it failed to get approval of Parliament a year after the court ruled that the practice of triple “talaq” violated the constitutional rights of Muslim women.

Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by the Muslim Personal Law for family matters and disputes. The laws include allowing men to divorce by simply uttering the Arabic word “talaq,” or divorce, three times — and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium, including telephone, text message or social media post.

Muslim
Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of  women, VOA News

The government will have another six months to get Parliament’s approval for the ordinance to become law. But in the meantime, suspects can be prosecuted using the ordinance.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that nearly 22 countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice and appealed to the opposition to approve the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill.

India’s Muslim Law Board had told the court that while they considered the practice wrong, they opposed any court intervention and asked that the matter be left to the community. But several progressive Muslim activists decried the law board’s position.

Muslim
Muslim women hold placards during a protest against a bill passed by India’s lower house of Parliament last week that aims at prosecuting Muslim men who divorce their wives through the “triple talaq,” or instant divorce. VOA

After the Supreme Court verdict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government introduced a bill criminalizing the practice and it was approved in December by the lower house of Parliament, where his party commands a majority. But it couldn’t get the approval of the upper house, where the opposition controls the majority of seats.

The main opposition Congress party is opposing a three-year prison sentence for the offenders and wants a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue to reach a consensus. It favors a lesser sentence.

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In India, triple talaq has continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious laws in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption. While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched. (VOA)