The Indian government has approved a measure to help enforce a top court decision on a centuries old Muslim custom.The approval came after the government failed to get Parliament to act on the decision.
A year ago, the high court ruled against the custom of triple “talaq.”The court found that it was unlawful for Muslim men to end a marriage by simply saying a single word three times.It ruled this violated the constitutional rights of Muslim women.
Many of India’s 170 million Muslims follow the Muslim Personal Law for family disputes.The laws include giving men permission to end their marriages by saying the Arabic word for divorce - “talaq” - three times.The word can be said anytime and anywhere, even as part of a telephone call or text message.
The government will have another six months to get parliament’s approval for the new ordinance to become law.For now, Indian officials can use the measure to take legal action against suspects.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that nearly 22 countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the custom.He appealed to the opposition to approve the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill.
India’s Muslim Law Board had told the court that they did not like the custom, but it opposed any court interference in religious issues.The board’s members asked that the subject of triple talaq be left to the Muslim community.But several Muslim activists condemned the position of the Law Board.
After the Supreme Court decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government proposed a bill that would criminalize the custom.The bill was approved in December by the lower house of Parliament, where Modi’s party has a majority.But it has yet to be approved by the upper house, where the opposition has the majority.
The main opposition Congress party is opposing the bill because of the three-year prison sentence for the offenders.It wants a less severe sentence.It also wants a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue to find a compromise.
In India, triple talaq has continued because of laws that give Muslims, Christians and Hindus permission to follow religious laws in marriage and other family issues.
While most Hindu personal laws have been changed over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious leaders and are rarely changed.
I’m Susan Shand.