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‘Instant Divorce’ Still Practised in India

‘Instant Divorce’ Still Practised in India Sabiha along with her son (Photo: Shuriah Niazi)

Indian Muslim women have been fighting back against what is known as “triple talaq” or instant divorce. It’s a system whereby a Muslim man can divorce his wife by pronouncing ‘talaq’ three times in quick succession.

The practice is banned in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but still continues in India.

Sabiha Khan is a mother of a 3-year-old son. 

She was married when she was 22 but she was often beaten by her husband because of the small dowry she brought to the marriage. Two years ago, her husband divorced her.

“It was a one-sided divorce,” says Sabiha.

“I received a letter from my husband about his decision to divorce. It was a shock for me because he’d never told me that he wanted a divorce before. I approached a local Muslim cleric who deals with divorce cases. And he said that the divorce had already been done, with just a letter. I’m left without any other options but to accept my fate.”

It’s part of a practice called “triple talaqs” – whereby a partner can ask for a divorce by uttering the word ‘talaq’ three times in quick succession. This can be done directly, by letter, or even by sending a text message.

Women usually suffer more because they are often left behind with nothing to fall back on.

36-year-old Kishwar Jahan was divorced more than 5 years ago. But because she’s uneducated, she couldn’t find a job and had to depend on her mother.

She says Islamic courts don’t side with women in these cases.

“They should see the condition of the women who have to suffer a lot after a divorce. Instant divorce has destroyed many women’s lives. In most cases they were divorced without any warning. And if they go to court, they’re told that the divorce has already been granted.”

Some historians say that the custom of divorce is not originally an Islamic practice, but has roots in pre-Islamic society.

According to the Quran, marriage is considered a sacred bond and divorce is discouraged unless there are valid reasons.

But there have been hundreds of instant divorce cases in India.

Safiya Akhtar, who heads the NGO ‘Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan’, says they have been fighting for a ban on ‘triple talaq’.

“This practice is un-Islamic, inhuman and unjust. It’s a total violation of Qur’anic injunctions and values of justice and fairness. How can you divorce women in one go and without any valid reasons? These women are often asked to leave home along with their children under this un-Islamic practise of instant divorce.”

The organisation recently publicised a number cases of women who’d been orally divorced by their husbands.

Some of them have filed their cases to the Indian courts, but many look for an out-of-court settlement because they fear the case could linger on for years.

The organisation also runs regular public hearings to increase women’s awareness of the issue.

“Divorce is something which is the least favoured act in Islam, and in the eyes of God. In case the couple can’t stay together anymore, they should first ask for arbitration and the divorce should be completed over a period of three months, if all attempts at reconciliation fail.”

They’re also pushing the government to take legal action against any Muslim clerks who promote triple talaqs.

But according to a local Muslim scholar, Mufti Shees, triple talaq exists in the Quran, and everyone must follow its teachings.

“How one should lead his life is written in the Quran. The procedure for Talaq is also written in the Quran. A Muslim has to follow these things when divorcing. I don’t think anyone is going against the set principle.”

Following her divorce, Sabiha Khan now lives with her son at her parents’ home.  She earns money by working in a government-run shelter for malnourished children.

She’s trying to continue her life without any financial support from her ex-husband.

“They’re misusing their rights. They’re going for a divorce without any legal reasons and without thinking about the consequences. My life is shattered and I rely on God to help me.”



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