The Indian government and women’s groups yesterday hailed “historic” legislation that criminalised ‘instant divorce’ for Muslims, but an influential Muslim group said it would launch a legal challenge.
The Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, passed a bill on Tuesday banning the practice that allowed men to separate from their wives by saying “talaq” three times.
Husbands who use it now can be jailed for up to three years or be fined.
Some Muslim women’s groups celebrated at events across India, which has followed many countries in regulating “triple talaq”.
Zakia Soman, a social activist who launched a campaign against the practice nearly a decade ago, said the legislation would serve as a deterrent against the unjust treatment of women, some of whom were divorced with a WhatsApp message or by phone.
“This law is the result of decades of injustice meted out to Muslim women and the unsympathetic attitude of the political class and clergy,” Soman told AFP.
The government called the parliament vote “historic”.
“An archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter late Tuesday.
But other Muslim groups fought the law and even the opposition Congress party was against it, accusing Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of targeting one minority group.
Zafaryab Jilani of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board vowed yesterday to challenge the new legislation in court.
He said the action was part of a wider campaign by the BJP to undermine religious freedom.
“We are not surprised by the legislation as it is part of their larger agenda to change the country’s constitution and snatch away the rights of minorities,” Jilani, secretary of the Muslim group, told AFP.
Jilani said a petition against the law had nearly 50mn signatories across India.
Asaduddin Owaisi, a leading Muslim lawmaker, said the new legislation “should be seen only as one part of many attacks on Muslim identity and citizenship” since Modi came to power in 2014.