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India Bans Express Divorce – Men can no longer divorce by text message

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Today marks a big change in Indian divorce law as it has banned the  “Triple Talaq”.  This is the practice whereby Muslim men could dissolve marriages by simply pronouncing the word “divorce” (“Talaq”) three times.

Men had been known to divorce their wives by saying, writing in letters, texts and even WhatsApp the words, “Talaq.  Talaq.  Talaq.”

The supreme court in Delhi heard this case after a petition from 7 victims and a number of women’s groups.  The supreme court judges decided (3 votes to 2) that the triple talaq was “not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality”.

This decision could affect up to 90 million Muslim women.  In 2015 a national survey by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) found that approximately 1 in 11 Muslim women had been divorced using the triple talaq, and that the vast majority received no money whatsover leaving them in a precarious situation.

Why did the ban take so long?

The triple talaq has already long been banned in most of the Muslim world, including neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The reason it is said to have taken so long is that India’s Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Christian communities are allowed to follow religious law in personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.  India’s Muslim Law Board had told the court that they considered the practice morally wrong but opposed any court intervention, believing that the matter was best left to the Muslim community to manage.

However, the judges argued that the triple talaq also violated women’s consitutional rights to equality, and protection of life and personal liberty respectively.

The judgement was praised by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter and by numerous women’s group.  The BMMA survey also found that 92% of Muslim women surveyed also wanted this practice ban.

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