Christian women in India back bid to ban instant divorce

Muslim practice of triple talaq undermines 'constitutional principle of gender equality'
Christian women in India back bid to ban instant divorce

In this photograph taken on April 28, Muslim women shoppers walk through a market in Bhopal. Muslim women are protesting a tradition that allows a Muslim man to split with his wife by saying 'I divorce you' three times. (Photo by AFP) 

Christian women in India are supporting demands by Muslim women for the abolition of triple talaq, or instant divorce.

Around 50,000 Muslim women have signed a petition, started by a Muslim organization Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA- national Muslim women campaign protest), to abolish the practice.

Triple talaq allows a Muslim man to split with his wife by saying "I divorce you" three times. This can be done over the phone, through a letter or email or through any social network medium.

While the practice is banned in more than 21 Muslim majority countries, including Pakistan, it continues in India as legally valid form of divorce for Muslim men.

Christian women are supporting the abolition campaign, saying the practice is a blatant example of social injustice.

"It [the petition] is a positive sign that Muslim women are coming together to demand their fundamental rights. Gender justice and gender equality are the needs of the day," Sister Mary Scaria, a Supreme Court lawyer, told on June 9.

She said that Muslim women suffer a lot as a result of this practice and "it is high time they become aware of their fundamental rights — their right to speak, think and decide."

Sister Talisha Nadukudiyil, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference’s council of women said triple talaq is an injustice to Muslim women.

Expressing concern that the practice is too ingrained in the Muslim religion, the nun from the Sisters of the Destitute congregation wondered whether Muslims in India "could separate it from religion and abolish it."

However, more than 200 Muslim men from across the country have signed a statement supporting the BMMA petition.

The statement, circulated by Mumbai-based social activist Javed Anand called triple talaq "obnoxious, un-Quranic and un-constitutional."

"[It] violates the constitutional principles of gender equality and non-discrimination," the statement said.

"The ulema [Muslim scholars] who proudly proclaim that Islam is the first religion to have given rights to women are duty bound to ensure justice to women. We bemoan the fact that instead of doing so they continue to justify the Muslim male’s privilege of unilateral and instant divorce, often on a mere whim or fit of anger," it stated.

Jyotsna Chatterjee, director of the Joint Women’s Programme, a group that promotes the rights of women and children, said Muslim women face very uncertain futures.

"They never know when their husband will and leave them by pronouncing those three words." When they do it often comes out of the blue, she said.

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If this practice has to exist, "it should be for both men and women. Why should men only have this right?" she asked.

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