India to criminalize Muslim instant divorce

India to criminalize Muslim instant divorce

Decision draws criticism from different sections of society with some questioning intention of government

By Shuriah Niazi

NEW DELHI, India (AA) - Indian government has decided to make “triple talaq” (instant divorce) a criminal offense, a local daily reported.

A bill to make instant divorce a criminal offense is expected to be presented in the parliament during its winter session, The Indian Express quoted an anonymous senior government official as saying.

The move comes after the practice of instant divorce was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in August. The court voted by 3-2 against the tradition whereby a Muslim man can divorce his wife by saying the word “talaq” -- divorce -- three times.

The decision drew criticism from different sections of the society, with some of them questioning the intention of the government.

“It is good if government brings a legislation to discourage the practice. However, we are not against triple talaq. We don’t have details what exactly they want to do,” Mufti Ateeq Bastawi, a member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, told Anadolu Agency.

Mufti Shees, based in central India, feels that the government wants to polarize the situation ahead of assembly elections in Gujarat, which is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The government should talk to Muslim organizations before taking any decision, but it seems they have a hidden agenda. I don’t think it is going to stop instant divorce,” Mufti Shees told Anadolu Agency.

- Civil remedies

Meanwhile, women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes said that she was “shocked” by the government’s plans to criminalize the practice.

“Women want civil remedies to be available to them, they want not to be thrown out and not to be deserted,” she said speaking to a news web portal The Wire.

“What good will throwing men in jail do?”

Agnes also questioned the government’s intentions behind a legislation limited to the minority Muslim women at a time when deserted Hindu women all around the country are living in deplorable conditions.

According to Census 2011 data, the number of these women far exceeds the number of Muslim divorcees and deserted women, reported The Wire.

India is one of the few countries where the “triple talaq” was in practice.

Instances of its use have increased in recent years as men divorced their wives via written letter, mobile phone text message and even Facebook.

India does not have a homogeneous set of laws on marriage and divorce that apply to everyone.

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