India introduces bill to outlaw practice of 'instant divorce'

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ISTANBUL
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Activists of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), offer sweets to each other as they celebrate, after Indian government introduced a bill in parliament. (Reuters Photo)
Activists of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), offer sweets to each other as they celebrate, after Indian government introduced a bill in parliament. (Reuters Photo)

A bill introduced into the Indian parliament Thursday to make the controversial practice of instant divorce (triple talaq) a criminal offense.

Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad, while introducing the bill, called it a "historic day" for India as several members of different opposition parties were opposed to the bill in its present form.

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 concept of instant divorce is a controversial issue among Muslims as prominent scholars say couples need to wait for a period of time for the divorce to be valid and disapprove the practice.

Thursday's bill proposes a three-year jail term and a fine for any Muslim man who indulges in the practice. The law would be applicable in the entire country except the Jammu Kashmir state in the north.

The bill also entitles Muslim women to maintenance after divorce. It also has a provision for the divorced women to have the custody of their minor children. The offenses under the purview of this bill would be cognizable and non-bailable.

Muslims in India, accounting for some 14 per cent of a population of 1.25 billion, are governed by personal law, which is loosely based on sharia, or Islamic law.

The use of triple talaq has increased in recent years as men divorced their wives via written letters, text messages and even Facebook.

India does not have a homogeneous set of laws on marriage and divorce that applies to everyone and while most Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq, it has persisted among Indian Muslims.

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