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‘Instant divorce’ law banning ‘triple talaq’ practice is passed by Indian parliament

‘Instant divorce’ law banning ‘triple talaq’ practice is passed by Indian parliament
Indian lawmakers have passed legislation banning the Muslim practice known as ‘instant divorce.’ Proponents of the bill say it will protect Muslim women while critics argue its penalties are too harsh and target Muslims unfairly.

‘Triple talaq,’ as the controversial practice is also known in India, allows a husband to separate from his wife merely by uttering “talaq,” the Arabic word for divorce, three times consecutively, whether verbally, in written form or even through a tweet or text message.

In 2017, the Indian Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional, but the new legislation prohibits it outright, threatening violators with up to three years in prison. The law passed the upper house of parliament on Tuesday, with 99 votes in favor and 84 against, after making it through the lower chamber last week. It now awaits approval by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind.

Several iterations of the law failed to make it through parliament since the first version was introduced by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2017, with some opposition MPs arguing that the punishment proposed for offenders goes too far. The opposition Indian National Congress (INC) fought the law’s passage, and critical MPs tried and failed to send the law back to a select committee in the upper house prior to Tuesday’s vote.

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The INC and other opposition figures have also accused the Hindu nationalist BJP of targeting Muslims with the bill, questioning the need for new legislation when the divorce practice was already legally invalidated in the country’s highest court.

“The Supreme Court had struck down triple talaq, ... then what is the need to criminalise an imaginary thing?” said senior INC leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, according to India Today, though the lawmaker added that he broadly supported the effort to protect women.

Senior INC leader Raj Babber also deemed the outcome of the vote a “big jolt” for familial law in India, adding “This is a historic mistake,” India Today reports.

In contrast, Smriti Irani, Women and Child Development Minister and an advocate for the law, praised its passage in a tweet on Tuesday, heralding the bill as a “victory for millions of Muslim women,” and part of a “social revolution.”

Law Minister and BJP lawmaker Ravi Shankar Prasad also defended the development, stating the previous Supreme Court decision was insufficient to protect women.

“The judgement has come, but no action on triple talaq has been taken,” Prasad said, according to the BBC. “That is why we have brought this law, because the law is a deterrence.”

Prasad added that some 574 cases of ‘instant divorce’ had been reported since the Supreme Court verdict in 2017, which he said underscored the need for additional legislation.

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