India's Muslim women fight 'triple talaq' divorce

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Indias Muslim women fight triple talaq divorce

Bhopal, India - "I was completely shocked and shattered. We had differences soon after we wed but it never looked so bad," the mother-of-three told AFP.


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Published: Fri 10 Jun 2016, 10:08 AM

Last updated: Fri 10 Jun 2016, 1:22 PM

Only three words were scrawled on the letter from her husband and posted to her parent's home in central India, but they were enough to shatter Sadaf Mehmood's life.
Using an ancient and controversial Islamic practice, Mehmood's husband wrote "talaq, talaq, talaq" or "I divorce you" three times in Arabic, instantly ending his marriage of five years.
"I was completely shocked and shattered. We had differences soon after we wed but it never looked so bad," the mother-of-three told AFP.
Mehmood, who is from Bhopal, is one of a number of Indian Muslim women whose husbands dissolved their marriage using triple talaq. The message delivered by everything from traditional letters to Facebook and Whatsapp.
Banned in many Muslim countries, India, which is officially secular, is one of the few nations that legally permits the practice.
"The talaqnama (divorce letter) came without any intimation or warning," said Mehmood, 31, adding that she now struggles to make ends meet without her husband's support.
Now another divorcee, Shayara Bano, has asked the Supreme Court to outlaw it, as a backlash against the practice gathers steam.
"I understand my marriage is over but something needed to be done so that other Muslim women do not suffer," Bano told AFP of her petition filed in February, which has encouraged at least one other divorcee to follow suit.
India's religious minorities, including its 155 million Muslims, are governed by personal laws that are meant to enshine their religious freedom in Hindu-majority India.
But women say the Muslim Personal Law Application Act, which is based on Sharia law and permits triple talaq, is being misused, allowing men to instantly walk away from their families.
"Women are generally treated as second class citizens in our society and they are further discriminated against by those misinterpreting religion," Sadia Akhtar who works for Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a charity helping to empower Muslim women.
A survey of Muslim women by the charity last year found an overwhelming majority favoured abolition of the practice. Some 500 of the 4,000 women surveyed said they had been divorced that way.
In recent weeks some 50,000 Muslims signed a petition organised by the charity as part of a campaign to ban it.
Akhtarul Wasey, a professor of Islamic studies, said it was only supposed to be used as a last resort when husbands were "traumatising their partners" by endlessly pronouncing talaq and then revoking it.
"(But) It has lost its essence and become an arbitrary law," Wasey from New Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia university told AFP.
Many Muslim majority countries including neighbouring Bangladesh have already banned it, while legislation on the same is pending in Pakistan's parliament.

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