06/03/2016, 17.24
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Some 50,000 Muslim women challenge quick Islamic divorce

by Nirmala Carvalho

Islamic marriages are governed by a 1937 law adopted under British rule, which applies to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and property. Women are discriminated against and exploited. The Indian Constitution calls for a “uniform civil code”, but the power lies with parliament.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – About 50,000 Muslim women have petitioned the National Commission for Women and asked the Indian Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the triple talaq, or Islamic repudiation.

Muslim women complain that the archaic marriage system leaves them at the mercy of their husbands, who can repudiate them by simply saying Talaq (I divorce you) three times, thus freeing themselves from any marital obligations.

Some Islamic scholars have denounced the practice, which discriminates against women and exposes them to exploitation.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (Indian Muslim Women's Movement, BMMA), which spearheaded the petition, is against instant divorces.

This practice is commonplace among Muslims. By uttering the word talas three times, men can end their marriage.

India is one of the few countries in the world where Islamic law still governs marriage among Muslims. Even Islamic countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have abolished the practice.

India’s current Islamic marriage legislation is based on the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, which was adopted under British rule.

This law governs all issues relating to women’s marriage, divorce, succession, inheritance, and personal property. Approved to protect Islamic cultural tradition, the law has provided justification for discriminatory practices.

For many Muslim women, verbal divorce is abusive. Nowadays, it can even be delivered via text messages or in the mail. This is what happened to 25-year-old Afreen Rehman, who received her husband’s divorce declaration by priority mail. Other women have similar stories, many posted on social media, some dreading divorce by WhatsApp.

Marriage law in India is very complex with many different rules. The Indian Constitution provides for different civil codes to protect the country’s various religious communities.

Under Article 44 of the Constitution, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” However, this leaves a lot of leeway to the various communities.

Women have now challenged the article because of its vagueness, demanding greater dignity and respect for their rights.

A woman who was repudiates after having her second child brought the case to the Supreme Court. Her case is bound to last a long time because the justices, whilst acknowledging the injustice of her situation, referred the matter to parliament, deeming it a legislative prerogative.

Implementing Article 44 was part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election platform. During the campaign he pledged to act on the matter.

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