India’s top court has declared the 1400-year-old Shariat practice, which allows Muslim men to instantly divorce their wives by just saying ‘talaq’ [an Arabic word for divorce] three times, unconstitutional by ruling that the arbitrary and whimsical mode of ending marriage violated Muslim women’s fundamental right to equality.
Five senior judges of different faiths sat on the petition brought by five Muslim women who had experienced the bitter and unjust divorce procedure. After deliberating for three months, the judges gave a unanimous verdict banning instant talaq. Now, the government must amend the sections of India’s Muslim personal law that allows the practice to continue.
According to the practice, men simply have to utter the words, write them down or send them via social media, email or text to break the marriage bond.
In 2015, Shayara Bano from the state of Uttarakhand petitioned the Supreme Court that her husband of 15 years sent her a letter with talaq written three times on it and left her. Four other four Muslim women also brought similar petitions before the top court, seeking an end to the practice they described as discriminatory.
India is not the only country where triple talaq has generated public debate. The practice has been banned in over 20 Muslim countries, including India’s two neighbors – Pakistan and Bangladesh.
After the ruling, India’s Muslim Law Board admitted that the practice is wrong, but said it opposed the court’s intervention in the matter as the Muslim community in the country should be given the opportunity to tackle it.
However, progressive Muslims and human rights activists welcomed the ruling. Activist Feroze Mithiborwala told local media: “This is the demand of ordinary Muslim women for over 70 years and it’s time for this country to hear their voices.”
Asmita Basu, programmes director at Amnesty International India, also expressed satisfaction, calling on the government to end all forms of discriminatory laws against women:
“We welcome the Supreme Court judgment. Triple talaq is a discriminatory practice that violates women’s right to equality, and has devastated the lives of many Muslim women. The Supreme Court’s bar on this regressive practice is a step forward for women’s rights in India. We urge the government to repeal all religious family laws that violate women’s right to equality, without exception.”