India’s top court has ruled the practice of instant divorce in Islam unconstitutional, marking a major victory for women’s rights activists. In a 3-2 majority verdict, the court called the practice “un-Islamic”.
India is one of a handful of countries where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.
The landmark court decision came in response to petitions challenging the so-called “triple talaq” custom. The cases were filed by five Muslim women who had been divorced in this way and two rights groups. Women’s rights campaigners have hailed the court’s decision as a historic win.
There have been cases in which Muslim men in India have divorced their wives by issuing the so-called triple talaq by letter, telephone and, increasingly, by text message, WhatsApp, and Skype. A number of these cases made their way to the courts as women contested the custom.
Triple talaq divorce has no mention in Sharia Islamic law or the Koran, even though the practice has existed for decades. Islamic scholars say the Koran clearly spells out how to issue a divorce – it has to be spread over three months, allowing a couple time for reflection and reconciliation.
Most Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq, but the custom has continued in India, which does not have a uniform set of laws on marriage and divorce that apply to every citizen.
Campaigners say over the years thousands of women, especially those from poor families, have been discarded by their husbands in this manner. Many have been rendered destitute, with nowhere to go, or have been forced to return to their parental homes or fend for themselves.
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