NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India’s top judge was urged on Thursday to scrap a civil law that permits Muslim men to divorce their wives by simply stating their intention three times, a practice that has even left some wives dumped by text.
The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is expected to decide on a petition filed by victims and activists who want the so-called triple talaq law to be abolished. Not only is it unconstitutional, they say, it is misused for instant divorces.
In a letter to CJI Jagdish Singh Khehar, activists said thousands of Indian Muslim women were eager for a judgment which would end a practice where men can divorce their wives without warning - sometimes even via Skype, WhatsApp and text message.
“Triple talaq happens despite there being no Quranic sanction for it,” said the letter, which was signed by members of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), or the India Muslim Women’s Movement.
“Absence of any legal protection leaves Muslim women vulnerable to this practice of arbitrary and unjust divorce. She is rendered homeless and destitute in an instant. She is left without any support for herself and her children.”
Triple talaq - where a man says ‘I divorce you’ three times - is banned in most Muslim countries.
It is permitted in India, however, as the constitution allows most religions, including Muslims - the biggest religious minority group - to regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance through their own civil code.
A supreme court bench, made up of five multi-faith judges, in May reserved judgment on whether to abolish the law, and the matter now lies in the hands of the CJI.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-governmental body which oversees the application of Muslim personal law, opposes any ban on triple talaq and argues this is a religious matter and not for the courts.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi disagrees and last year waded into a controversy by saying he believed it was destroying women’s lives, with Muslims making up about 13 percent of the country’s almost 1.3 billion people.
The BMMA said that victims fighting for justice had faced death threats for speaking up for their rights, but they remained hopeful the CJI’s verdict would justify their efforts.
“Muslim women have fought against tremendous hardships and threats on their way to the court,” said the letter. “We are confident that the Supreme Court will give a ruling upholding the Constitution and equal rights for women.”
Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org