India Criminalizes ‘Medieval’ Muslim Instant Divorce Practice

Veiled Indian Kashmiri Muslim activists of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of the Faith) organization look on during a press confrence held to urge the government to reveal the names of people caught up in a prostitution scandal in Srinagar, 10 May 2006. Police in April 2006 unearthed an alleged racket involving …
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty

Lawmakers in India this week outlawed the centuries-old practice that allows a Muslim man to instantly divorce by saying the word “talaq” three times in his wife’s presence.

“Talaq” means divorce in Arabic.

Times of India (TOI) described Tuesday’s passage of the legislation as a nod to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP has been pushing to criminalize what many Muslim men consider to be their “right” to instantly divorce.

“This is a historic day, the injustice that was going on with Muslim women, India’s parliament has given them justice,” India’s Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reportedly declared.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the BJP is expected to sign the bill into law. The PM proclaimed on Twitter Tuesday:

An archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history! Parliament abolishes Triple Talaq and corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women. This is a victory of gender justice and will further equality in society. India rejoices today!

Approval of the bill “marks a decisive turn in BJP’s political battle against what it dubbed ‘appeasement’ politics, which will amplify its domination and help reassure its base,” TOI noted, adding:

BJP has consistently opposed triple talaq and other controversial features of Muslim personal law, including polygamy, on the ground that they were in conflict with the law of the land and as part of its larger pitch for Uniform Civil Code.

The BJP is pushing for the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code that protects “the rights of all women,” India Today reported in April. However, Modi’s BJP has reportedly failed to advance women’s rights in India, where girls and women reportedly face entrenched violence, particularly sexual assault.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of State joined human rights groups and other critics in linking India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party with Hindu extremist activities against religious minorities, namely Muslims and Christians.

The BJP has refuted allegations of bias against Muslims and other minorities, but it maintains that “it is opposed to the appeasement of any community,” Reuters noted Wednesday.

India’s upper house passed the bill on Tuesday, Reuters reported, adding:

The lower house backed the bill, which will make anyone practicing instant divorce liable to prosecution, last week. India is one of the few countries where the practice has survived in law. It was declared “unconstitutional” by the supreme court two years ago.

“Some Indian Muslim groups have said triple talaq is wrong, but believe the practice should be reviewed by community leaders rather than the government,” Reuters pointed out.

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