India court rules Muslim ‘instant divorce’ unconstitutional

India’s Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional a Muslim practice that reportedly allows men to “instantly divorce” their wives, a move some claim is a landmark victory for Muslim women to get greater equality.


The practice, known as “triple talaq,” allows Muslim men to divorce their wives by simply uttering the Arabic word “talaq,” or divorce, three times. It doesn’t need to be consecutive, but at any time, and by any medium, including telephone calls, text messages or social media posts.


Muslim women say they have been left destitute by husbands divorcing them through triple talaq, including by Skype and WhatsApp.


Under the ruling, the government will need to frame new divorce legislation, which would replace the abolished practice, within six months.


The ruling was delivered by a panel of five male judges from different faiths: Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Three of the five ruled that the practice was unconstitutional, overruling the senior-most judge in India, the chief justice.


“Finally, I feel free today,” Shayara Bano, who was divorced through triple talaq and was among the women who brought the case, told Reuters after the ruling.

“I have the order that will liberate many Muslim women.”


More than 20 Muslim countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice. But in India, triple talaq has continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious law in family matters and disputes.

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