Dubai: India’s Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Triple Talaq ordinance, which makes instant divorce a penal offence. The ordinance demands that Muslim men found guilty of the offence be fined and jailed for three years.
What is Triple Talaq?
A modified of Talaq (divorce), Triple Talaq is not as per Quranic principles or teachings. For talaq-e-sunnah (Islamic divorce), the Quran purports efforts of reconciliation and giving notice to the wife over an extended period of up to three months, with the pronouncement of ‘talaq’ staggered over this period of time.
When the third and final ‘talaq’ is given, even after the conciliatory efforts and the breaks in between, the divorce is deemed final and therefore irrevocable.
On the other hand, the modified ‘instant divorce’ has been used by Indian Muslim men to divorce his wife over SMS by sending the word ‘talaq’ three times, or over the phone and in person in a single instance.
India follows a secular approach with religious groups being allowed to manage their own affairs within the law, and most of these divorcees never see justice or even a chance at reconciliation with the husband. The move to criminalise instant divorce, therefore, is being touted as a step forward for the rights of Indian Muslim women.
Clerics and Muslim seminary leaders in India are divided on the issue but in many cases, the onus is on the woman to accept the instant divorce and move on.
For example, a cleric in Uttar Pradesh, India issued a ‘fatwa’ against a Muslim woman who opposed the ‘triple talaq’ from her husband, ordering people to avoid her, along with other directives.
A file photo from 2017 shows Muslim women celebrate the Supreme Court's decision on "Triple Talaq".
What is the ordinance?
As per the 'Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill', these are the key amendments approved:
- Triple Talaq is a punishable criminal offence which can be reported through an FIR (First Information Report)
- It is a non-bailable offence, so the accused cannot get bail at the police station where the FIR is lodged. However, the accused can request bail from a magistrate before trial begins
- The offence is ‘compoundable’ which means the magistrate can step in to settle the issues between the couple. When categorised as a compoundable case, both parties are allowed to withdraw the case.
Who can file an FIR?
According to the ordinance now approved, only a woman (the wife), her blood relations or relations by virtue of marriage can file an FIR against the husband who divorced through ‘triple talaq’ or instant divorce.
Social Media Reactions
As soon as the ordinance was passed, social media users reacted strongly, with many supporting the move. #TripleTalaq was the top trend on Twitter in India.
Tweep @jatanacharya wrote: “Union Cabinet approves #TripleTalaq ordinance. Big victory for Muslim women’s rights.”
Another Twitter user @SumitkadeI added: “Modi government approves historic ordinance!! Triple Talaq is now a punishable offence!! … Muslim sisters, it’s your day, just celebrate. Opposition will cry foul for sure. #TripleTalaq”
@Payal_Rohatgi wrote: “An applause ... Muslim women have an identity of their own. They need to be respected by their husbands. They can’t be used and dumped as if marriage was a joke. #Marriage is a union between spouses that establishes equal rights and obligations between both of them #TripleTalaq.”
India’s former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju also took to Twitter commending the move. He added: “The lives of thousands of innocent Muslim girls have been ruined by it [triple talaq].”
Politics in play
However, other social media users felt that the move was more for political reasons than to ensure Muslim women are treated fairly.
Tweep @RifatJawaid wrote: “For all those ‘idiots’ who criticised Modi and his party, BJP, for not showing empathy to Indians on rising fuel prices, joblessness, broken economy, growing rapes, 1000s crores of scam in Rafale deal, here’s #TripleTalaq ordinance. All problems solved. India is a superpower!”
For all those 'idiots' who criticised Modi and his party, BJP, for not showing empathy to Indians on rising fuel prices, joblessness, broken economy, growing rapes, 1000s crores of scam in Rafale deal, here's #TripleTalaq ordinance. All problems solved. India is superpower!— Rifat Jawaid (@RifatJawaid) September 19, 2018
Another Twitter user @DrParvezM claimed that this was not a priority for Muslim women: “This #TripleTalaq thing is being made to look like an elephant in the room. Any Muslim lady would tell you that it is the least of her concerns. If the government is indeed concerned about women, it should focus on protecting their rights instead of interfering with their personal law.”
Many added that the government was diverting attention from the real issues affecting Indians, along with maybe using it as a means to target Muslim men.
Facebook user Syed Luqman wrote: “BJP is very concerned for minorities but majority are facing problems such as petrol price, downfall of rupee and unemployment. Micro and small enterprises lost their business due to your policies.”
A twitter user @Memeghnad also objected to the way the ordinance was passed. In a series of tweets he countered the BJP’s claim that the Congress Party was trying to stall the passing of the bill as BJP had not presented the bill for two sessions of the upper house of parliament – Rajya Sabha.
This also explains why there is such a concerted effort on the part of the BJP now to paint INC as a muslim party. That they are they ones stalling Triple Talaq Bill.— Meghnad (@Memeghnad) July 19, 2018
Also, have to say, the INC is also pretty useless for not being able to counter this.
He added: “It could mean only three things: 1) BJP Government is not interested in having a debate and vote on the bill in Rajya Sabha. 2) It wants to create the impression that Congress is stalling it and milk it for what it’s worth 3) MPs seem to be falling into their trap hook, line and sinker.”
Another Twitter user @shoebzama83 noted that most Muslim women didn’t seem to be commenting on the issue online. He wrote: “Why isn’t a single Muslim woman tweeting about #TripleTalaq? I only see Bhakts [supporters] tweeting non-stop about it. I don’t know who is getting benefited with this decision - Muslim Women or BJP?? … ”
However, most Twitter users supported the move, citing the case of a 29-year-old woman in Hyderabad who was allegedly given triple talaq over Whatsapp. The incident was reported today by most Indian media channels. The woman is now seeking help from the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj since her 60-year-old husband is from Oman.
Tweep @girishs2 wrote: “All Muslim men should support #TripleTalaq bill because they will also have daughters who will grow up and get married. You don’t want your daughters to have legal protection against this barbaric practice? Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.”
The practice of triple talaq was highlighted when 37- year-old Shayara Bano took her case to the Supreme Court in 2017. She called it an "unfair practice" and demanded that it should be abolished. However, this wasn’t the first time Muslim Indian women have been fighting the practice.
Zeenat Ali Siddiqui, who claims to be a victim of Triple talaq, speaks with media after verdict on it, outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi (2017 - PTI)
In August, 2017, the Supreme Court declared, by a majority that divorce through instant triple talaq among Muslims would be "void", "illegal" and "unconstitutional". This judgment has the effect of law.
But the practice continued ‘unabated’ according to Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for law and justice, IT, who announced the cabinet approval of the ordinance in Delhi on Tuesday