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India’s lower house of parliament passes legislation banning “instant divorce”
India’s lower house of parliament passes legislation banning “instant divorce”

The lower house of parliament of India, the Lok Sabha [official website], on Thursday passed a bill [text, PDF] criminalizing the practice of triple talaq or “instant divorce” whereby a Muslim man could divorce his wife by merely uttering the word “talaq” three times at one go.

Titled the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act of 2017 (the Act), the Act declares that “Any pronouncement of talaq by a person upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, shall be void and illegal” and that “Whoever pronounces talaq … upon his wife shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and fine.”

The Act provides for relief for a married Muslim woman (the woman) in the form of an entitlement to receive alimony and child support, which are to determined by a magistrate. The Act further entitles the woman to custody of her minor children in a manner also to be determined by a magistrate. Furthermore, an offense committed under this Act is non-bailable.

This bill follows the India Supreme Court‘s [official website] 3-2 ruling [judgment, PDF] in August declaring the triple talaq as “not integral to religious practice” and a violation of “constitutional morality.” Justices Kurian Joseph, Rohinton F. Nariman and U.U. Lalit ruled for the majority and issued a temporary injunction effective until such time a legislation on the matter is considered by the parliament. Dissenting Justices J.S. Khehar and S. Abdul Nazeer stated that they would have upheld the practice reasoning that it is the parliament’s prerogative to outlaw the practice as opposed to the Judiciary’s, and that no injunction should be issued.

A 2015 national study [PDF] in India, conducted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan [advocacy website], revealed that a vast majority of Muslim-Indian women were victimized by the practice of the triple talaq, whereby they received no alimony or any form of compensation or support. Women’s rights activists celebrated [The Guardian report] the Supreme Court ruling as a significant victory for the 90 million Muslim women of India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi [official website] welcomed it.

This bill, when it becomes effective, would apply to all of India, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.