Indian Supreme Court has blocked a law which allowed instant Islamic divorce.
Women’s rights group in India are celebrating the scrapping of the talaq-e-biddat law, also known as triple-talaq. The name comes from the belief that a man only has to repeat the word ‘talaq’ three times to divorce his wife. The word can be said over Skype or even sent written via WhatsApp or text message.
Unsurprisingly, this law was often invoked for petty issues such as a delay for serving foods. Moreover, women cannot use this means to get divorce and must seek it under khula, by which the woman must return the initial amount of dowry to her husband. In many cases justices have ruled that men are entitled to compensation greater than this amount. Women also had to obtain consent from their husbands and undergo a waiting period called Iddah before remarrying to be sure they were not pregnant.
More than 20 countries, including Bangladesh, Syria, Iran and Pakistan, have already banned the practice.
Some were surprised that the Supreme Court even accepted the case. India is a country that officially allows Muslim, Hindu and Christian communities to rule on personal matters, including marriage and divorce, among themselves without interference from the government.
Woman’s rights group and women divorced under this law asked the Indian Supreme Court to take actions on this legal way for men to dismiss India’s Muslim women. Judges representing the major faiths of the country were given a copy of the Quran to refer for information.
While consulting the Islamic holy book, the judges found that the triple-talaq law cannot be found anywhere in the text and that instead the word ‘talaq’ refers to a mediation process of three months to reconcile problems, the time over which the word is said.
This resulted on six-month block on the legislation this Tuesday until the law is debated in parliament, after three out of the five judges ruled that that triple-talaq was ‘not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality’.
While this represents a major step for women’s rights in the Islamic culture, a political power play could jeopardise the debate on the ban in parliament. Kamal Faruqui, a member of the executive committee of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, has accused the prime minister, Narendra Modi, of using the repeal as a political tool against the country’s Muslim minority. Faruqui further claimed that the triple-talaq was ‘part of sharia [law]’ after it was ruled that it wasn’t mentioned in the Quran.