August 22, 2017 / 1:47 PM / 4 months ago

What does India's ban on instant divorce mean for Muslim women?

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled a controversial Muslim quick divorce law unconstitutional, saying the government will need to frame a new law.

Muslim women have long argued that the law, which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering the word “talaq” three times, including by Skype and WhatsApp, violated their right to equality.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked women campaigners and legal experts their views on the ruling.

ZAKIA SOMAN - CO-FOUNDER BHARAT MUSLIM MAHILA ANDOLAN & PETITIONER:

”It is a welcome judgment. We had wanted justice from the court, and today they have given us that in banning triple talaq and calling for legislation.

The legislation has to be based on the Quranic injunction and comply with the constitutional principles. This is perfectly possible. We are confident it will uphold gender justice.

No one believed triple talaq would be banned. But today it has become history.”

FLAVIA AGNES - ACTIVIST & FOUNDER, MAJLIS LAW CENTER:

”Asking parliament to pass a law is the right approach. But this parliament does not have adequate Muslim representation. How can a majority pass a law for the minority?

Also, what is to stop Muslim men from simply abandoning their wives? There is the risk that the cost of litigation and fear of courts will lead to more women being abandoned.

We must address the core concerns of Muslim women including their awareness of economic and legal rights, instead of using triple talaq as a stick to beat the community with.”

KARUNA NUNDY, LAWYER, SUPREME COURT:

”It is a very important victory for gender justice. The court recognized the fact that even if one person is suffering from the violation or deprivation of a constitutional right, then the courts must step in.

Also, the judges made it clear that fundamental rights apply to codified religious personal law, and that triple talaq is not in accordance with religious law. This is important in reassuring the Muslim community that it’s not a judgment motivated in any manner by Hindu triumphalism.”

KAVITA KRISHNAN - SECRETARY, ALL INDIA PROGRESSIVE WOMEN‘S ASSOCIATION:

”It is a victory for Muslim women, and they must now keep up the pressure on the government to ensure the law sticks to the agenda of gender justice.

The argument that banning triple talaq won’t address other concerns of Muslim women is a specious one. This practice is insulting and demeaning to women, and it should be outlawed.

But it would be dishonest of the government to speak as though the Muslim community has some unique patriarchal character. There are other patriarchal customs in other communities, as well. What is important is that the government uphold the autonomy and character of the community while also upholding gender justice.”

ASMA ZAHRA - WOMEN‘S WING, ALL INDIA MUSLIM PERSONAL LAW BOARD:

”I have a mixed reaction, as it is a contradictory judgment, with dissenting views.

The rights of the Muslim community are guaranteed by the constitution. Any interference of our religious rights amounts to an attack on our constitutional rights. Some matters are private to a community, and our right to uphold them must be respected.

Triple talaq is not against women; in some cases, it offers her a quick exit from a bad marriage. In any case, it is a vanishing practice. What the government really needs to focus on are education, employment and economic empowerment of the community.”

Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; 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 to see more stories.

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