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Triple talaq: India's Muslim women fight against instant divorce

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India is perhaps the only country in the world where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in a matter of minutes by just uttering the word talaq (divorce) three times. But this controversial practice of "triple talaq" is now facing a stiff challenge - the Supreme Court is considering whether to declare it unconstitutional, writes the BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi.
Shayara Bano's world came crashing down in October.
The 35-year-old mother of two was visiting her parents' home in the northern state of Uttarakhand for medical treatment when she received her talaqnama - a letter from her husband telling her that he was divorcing her.
Her attempts to reach her husband of 15 years, who lives in the city of Allahabad, have been unsuccessful.

"He's switched off his phone, I have no way of getting in touch with him," she told the BBC over phone from her home in the northern state of Uttarakhand. "I'm worried sick about my children, their lives are getting ruined."
In February, a frustrated Shayara Bano filed a petition in the Supreme Court, demanding a total ban on triple talaq which, she says, allows Muslim men to treat their wives like "chattel".
Muslims are India's largest minority community with a population of 155 million and their marriages and divorces are governed by the Muslim personal law, ostensibly based on the sharia.
Even though it has been practised for decades now, the unilateral instant triple talaq is clearly an aberration - it finds no mention in sharia or the Koran.
Islamic scholars say the Koran clearly spells out how to issue a divorce - it has to be spread over three months which allows a couple time for reflection and reconciliation.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Activists are demanding a total ban on triple talaq Activists say most Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq, but it thrives in India.
For years, Muslim women in India have also been demanding a ban on the reprehensible practice - in 2004, I wrote about a similar campaign to end triple talaq.
A dozen years later, the situation appears worse.
And modern technology has made it even easier for unscrupulous men to dump their wives - using text messages as well as post and the telephone to pronounce divorce. There have also been instances where men have used Skype, WhatsApp or Facebook for the purpose.
In November, the Mumbai-based Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA - Indian Muslim Women's Movement) released a report chronicling nearly 100 cases of triple talaq.
"Since 2007, we have come across thousands of cases of oral triple talaq, rendering women destitute with nowhere to go," says Professor Zakia Soman, social activist and BMMA founder.
In a majority of the cases compiled by the BMMA, the divorced women were from poor families and most said their husbands did not honour their obligations to pay maintenance, forcing them to return to their parental homes or fend for themselves.
Indian Muslims also follow Halala - where a divorced woman has to marry another man and consummate her marriage in order to go back to her former husband.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Campaigners say Muslim women are denied their Koranic rights "India is the only country in the world where these un-Koranic practices exist. These are barbaric and totally unacceptable. There's a need for a comprehensive review of Muslim personal laws in India," Prof Soman told the BBC.
In October, the BMMA wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding "reforms in Muslim divorce and polygamy laws". They also filed a petition in the Supreme Court.
Prof Soman says what makes matters worse for the women is that "this un-Islamic triple talaq is often sanctioned by the Muslim clergy - the qazis and maulvis".
Perhaps that is why the Supreme Court's decision to take up Shayara Bano's petition has been opposed by several influential Muslim groups, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).
Its working committee member Asma Zehra is quick to "condemn" the practice, describing it as "haraam" (forbidden), but insists that the divorce rate is still very low among Indian Muslims and that the issue is being blown out of proportion by forces inimical to Islam.
"Why is everyone after us, after our religion?" she asks.

Ms Zehra says Muslims are struggling to survive under the present Indian government, led by Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, adding that the focus on the issue of triple talaq is "basically because they want to interfere in our religion" with the aim of introducing a uniform civil code.
She says that even though triple talaq has no Koranic sanction, it is not in their power to ban it because AIMPLB is "just a moral body, we can only educate people".
Ms Zehra says they are doing plenty to educate people, but activists say much more needs to be done.
"Condemning it is not enough. These practices need to be declared illegal," says Prof Soman.
"It's important that the Muslim family law is properly codified. Koran gave us our rights, the patriarchal forces have taken it away from women," she adds.
Shayara Bano, in her village in the hills of Uttarakhand, is pinning her hopes on the Supreme Court.
"I want my husband to take me back. I'm hoping to get justice from the court," she says.


Why is the BJP government with super majority taking this matter.


In my official carrier,I have had occasions to move with educated Muslim ladies who do not wear Purdah and totally against the "Purdah System"

So also, they are against "triple talaq" system and used to talk in unequivocal terms against it.

They have been propagating their views to other women in their society. They could not gain much momentum and make in road as the ladies are a suppressed lot in their society.
It is a Indian matter. It is very relevant to the forum.
India should have a uniform civil code. Indians have been demanding it. The volte bank politics created this unjust practice. It must be abolished.
In independent India, if it is true that all citizens are equal, then there should be an......... uniform civil code before which all are equal and all would be subjected to equal treatment.

The undue privilege enjoyed by a section of the society by allowing them to have their own personal laws, should be curtailed.

This could be done only by the present Govt; however, BJP has to gain majority in the upper house also.
[h=1]Is India ready to abolish triple talaq?[/h] [h=2]More than 50,000 Indian Muslim women and men have signed a petition demanding a total ban on the Muslim divorce.[/h]
"I do not know when and where he gave me a divorce," reads an account of Rojakammal from Tamil Nadu, one of the cases brought forth by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan.
The BMMA is an Indian Islamic feminist organisation which brings forth the plight of the ordinary Muslim women in India who constantly live under the fear of being unilaterally divorced by their husbands.
More than 50,000 Indian Muslim women and men have signed a petition demanding a total ban on the "un-Quranic" practice of the unilateral triple talaq or divorce and "nikah-halala" under the mantle of the BMMA.
In 2016, Shayara Bano and Afreen Rahman, unilaterally divorced by their husbands, approached the Supreme Court of India, demanding an end to triple talaq, seeking justice from the courts to nullify a practice which is not only unconstitutional but, according to the BMMA and a number of scholars, also "un-Quranic".
Both cases have opened a Pandora's box, and now the question of whether it is the right time to abolish the practice in India is being debated by all quarters of the media and civil society.
"Freedom of religion cannot be allowed to translate into superior rights for men over women. Our gender-just demands are not only constitutional but also based on teachings from the Quran," add Niaz and Soman.
I feel that the rights of a citizen are affected by imposing religious practices over a common practice.

1) Right to equality
2) Right against exploitation

As we have seen in the recent case of the shani temple where women were allowed to enter, triple talaq is a classic case where male prejudices take preference under the guise of religion. It should be immediately abolished.

However, any attempt to enforce a uniform civil code would lead to extreme unrest among the muslim community as they would see it as a step towards curbing their religious freedom. Especially when it is a bjp led government.
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