October 17, 2019

Should Muslim "Instant Divorce" Be Banned in India?

“In January 2016, Afreen Rehman, a resident of Jaipur, in northwest India, was recovering from a road accident when her husband sent a letter to her maternal uncle and grandfather.

Syed Ashar Ali Warsi had handwritten the word talaq thrice. Their marriage of 16 months was over.

Warsi had used an interpretation of Islamic law that allows a husband to annul a marriage by uttering the word talaq—Arabic for “divorce”—three times. The practice is commonly known as “triple talaq,” or instant divorce.

On Tuesday, India’s Parliament passed a bill to criminalize the practice of instant divorce. A man who imposes an instant divorce on his wife faces up to three years in prison as per the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill of 2019. The bill awaits presidential assent, which it is expected to get.

Women’s-rights activists, Islamic groups, and political parties are divided on the contentious issue. Many Muslim women’s groups have demanded the change, saying that the tradition of instant divorce is detrimental to them. (The custom is banned in more than 20 Muslim countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.) More conservative Islamic organizations say that the government has no business getting involved in what is, in effect, a religious practice. Other activists acknowledge that the change is needed, but say that it comes at a time when Hindu nationalism is the dominant political movement in India and as religious minorities, especially Muslims, are becoming more and more marginalized in the country.”

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