Muslim 'instant divorce' unconstitutional, India's Supreme Court rules

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Aug. 22, 2017 at 10:16 AM
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Aug. 22 (UPI) -- India's Supreme Court declared the "instant divorce" practice among the nation's Muslim population to be unconstitutional Tuesday after decades of campaigns by women's groups.

The court, by a 3-2 vote, struck down the legality of a divorce by which a Muslim man can formally dissolve his marriage to his Muslim wife by simply repeating "talaq," or "divorce," three times.

The "triple talaq" process typically leaves the wife with no alimony or other compensation. A survey in India, conducted in 2015 by the Muslim women's activist group Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, indicated that one in 11 Muslim women were subjected to the triple talaq.

Some Muslim clerics have also recognized instant divorces if the word "talaq" is texted or emailed to the wife, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

The court determined that the practice is discriminatory to women. The ruling noted that the triple talaq was "not integral to religious practice, and violates constitutional morality," and thus is not fundamental to Islam and does not have constitutional protection.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who supported the petition to the court, said the ruling "grants equality to Muslim women and is a powerful measure for women empowerment."

The court did not rule on other forms of divorce within Muslim law, where reconciliation is possible. The verdict only concerns "instant divorce," in which there is no counseling or compromise.

The "triple talaq" practice has already been banned in Pakistan, Bangladesh and much of the rest of the Muslim world.

"It's a very happy day for us. It's a historic day," Zakia Soman, co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said. "We, the Muslim women, are entitled to justice from the courts as well as the legislature."

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