India have criminalised the infamous ‘triple talaq’ divorce
Under Islamic law, a husband can all but immediately divorce his wife by saying the word ‘talaq’ (Arabic for divorce) three times whether in person, over the phone or even in written correspondence. Unsurprisingly, this is a highly contentious practice that typically draws criticism from several quarters. As a result, many will no doubt be pleased to hear that the act has not just been banned but has become a criminal offence in India.
In accordance with Sharia law, the wife has no legal recourse available and cannot challenge her husband’s decision. India’s supreme court had previously dubbed the practice of the ‘triple talaq’ to be unconstitutional in 2017, but legislation criminalising the act came into force on Wednesday of this week. Despite this, however, 201 such divorces had been recorded in the period between this declaration and the government criminalising the act. This could still be replead, with the country’s Parliament required to officially pass it within the next six months, though this is largely seen as a formality and offenders can also be arrested and charged within this period.
India’s Muslim Law Board are understood to have challenged any plans to criminalise the ‘triple talaq’ in spite of them having taken the position that the act was ethically wrong. Several prominent progressive Islamic clerics supported change and have backed the government, however, which commentators have claimed played a big part in the legislation’s successful introduction.
Additionally, India’s Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad argued that a secular nation, such as India, simply could not allow such a practice to continue stating that it created a clear ‘gender imbalance’. Prasad further noted that the practice has already been outlawed in 22 countries including both Bangladesh and Pakistan, both of whom have Muslim-majority populations.
The country’s opposition are not expected to oppose criminalising the ‘triple talaq’ but are predicted to oppose the recommended three-year prison sentence in favour of something more lenient such as suspended sentences or even fines.
India is believed to have a Muslim population of approximately 170 million, amounting to roughly 17% of the country’s overall population, 81% of which is Hindu. The country’s current government has previously been accused of stoking religious tensions between the majority and minority religious groups with critics claiming that this latest move is little more than an attempt by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to further galvanise their position as a party that prioritises the interests of Hindus.