Indian Top Court to Rule on Muslim Divorce With 3 Words

Men have to say 'talaq' 3 times and they're officially free; women say that's discriminatory
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2017 12:40 PM CDT
India's Supreme Court to Look at Muslim 'Instant Divorce'
In this June 29, 2016 photo, an Indian Muslim woman sits with her mother as they listen to an activist from the Indian Muslim Women's Movement at their office in Mumbai, India.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Although the Koran spells out how a Muslim couple's divorce should be handled—Islamic experts say it's to be spread out over three months so the couple can gauge if it's really the best decision—a more modern-day divorce tactic is now being examined by India's Supreme Court. That process, called a "triple talaq," involves a man simply saying the word "talaq" (meaning "divorce") three times for an instant severing of marital ties, per the BBC. But women's rights advocates say the practice is discriminatory and often leaves women abruptly abandoned, destitute, and without a place to stay, forcing many to return to their parents. The five-judge bench looking into whether the talaq practice is "fundamental" to practicing Islam runs the religious gamut, with a Hindu, a Sikh, a Christian, a Zoroastrian, and a Muslim on board to hear the combined petitions in the case.

The practice, which experts say doesn't explicitly appear in the Koran or in Sharia law, has been banned in many other Muslim countries, but it's still going strong in India, where Muslims make up the country's largest minority. One of the court petitioners, a 35-year-old mom who says the practice treats women like "chattels," says she got a letter from her husband announcing they were done while she was visiting her parents. That incident also underscores that men aren't just saying the phrase in person—they're also ending things via texts, phone calls, even Facebook and Skype. One thing the court won't be ruling on, even if it determines the divorce mantra is invalid: polygamy, which it says it won't interfere with, the Times of India reports. The hearings are set to be completed by May 19. (A text exchange between a Muslim teen and her dad is more inspiring.)

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