A survey spanning ten states in India has revealed that a staggering 92 percent of women across the country want the triple talaq – an Islamic oral divorce pronouncement – to be banned. This kind of divorce can only be issued by the husband, not the wife.
To give some background, Islamic marriage is governed by Sharia Law. Although Islam discourages divorces, it does make provisions for divorce which can be initiated by either the husband or wife. Reconciliation is also encouraged and the parties are advised to instruct arbitrators to assist with reconciliation before proceeding with divorce. The divorce procedure differs depending on whether the husband or wife initiates the divorce.
If the husband initiates divorce, this is done by what is known as a talaq and is a unilateral right of the husband to divorce. The husband may pronounce a talaq verbally or in writing, by stating the words talaq. If done verbally the words need only be uttered.
There are different types of talaq, one of which is revocable, allowing the parties to reconcile after talaq has been pronounced. This type of talaq is known as the Talaq-e-Raj’I in which the husband needs to say to or write to his wife the word talaq. Once the talaq has been pronounced a waiting period of three months is imposed upon the parties before they can finalise the divorce. The idea is to allow the parties time to reflect upon their situation and reconcile if they wish.
This waiting period is known as Iddah and is to cover three menstrual cycles. During this time the parties may live under the same roof but must sleep apart, and there are to be no sexual relations between them. If the parties do not reconcile during this period, the talaq becomes irrevocable and the divorce is completed. The husband no longer has financial responsibility for his wife. If, however, the parties do reconcile during the waiting period they remain as husband and wife.
The Talaq-e-Mughallazah, also known as the triple talaq, is irrevocable. The husband may repeat the word talaq three times or state that he is giving three talaqs. It may also be put into effect if three talaqs are given over a period of three months. This leads to the immediate end of the marriage. In recent times this has been done by text, email and social media.
When the triple talaq is pronounced, it gives full and final effect to divorce. The husband may give any reason he likes for pronouncing it, or indeed none at all. It is not difficult to see why this is seen as a controversial procedure, across the globe.
A Muslim women’s rights group, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), the group which carried out the survey of Muslim women in India, has been campaigning for a ban on the triple talaq since 2007. Its founder, Noorjahan Safia Diaz, has previously described the process of the triple talaq as a "gross injustice to a woman, who is not given a chance to present her case". The BMMA survey results show that 92 percent of women respondents want a ban on the oral divorce.
Some Islamic countries have placed a ban upon this type of divorce, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, but it remains effective in others – including India. Supporters of banning the talaq in India may have been given hope in recent weeks, as a government committee in India, set up to review the status of Indian women, have recommended that the triple talaq be banned. The recommendation has been sent to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which will hold consultations with civic groups.
Whilst this may be seen as a step forward there is likely to be a long road ahead in obtaining a ban on the triple talaq in India.