In a massive victory for India’s Muslim women and the Modi-led government, the Upper House or Rajya Sabha of Parliament on Tuesday passed a landmark bill that criminalises the Islamic practice of annulling marriage by husbands saying ‘talaq’ (divorce) three times in one breath.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019, better known as ‘triple talaq’ bill, was passed by the House with 99 votes in favour and 84 votes against as some of the ruling coalition partners who opposed it abstained from voting.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said an archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history. It is a victory for
gender justice, equality and women’s empowerment.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who initiated the debate on the bill, called it a historic day marking the beginning of a transforming India.
More than 20 Islamic nations have regulated triple talaq and democratic India should have criminalised the practice long back, he said.
Earlier, the opposition’s demand to send the bill to a select committee for review was rejected with 84 members voting for and 100 against.
The previous government led by Narendra Modi failed to get the bill cleared thrice since the National Democratic Alliance did not have the majority in the Upper House.
The bill was first tabled in Parliament 19 months back and it was approved by the Parliament’s Lower House or Lok Sabha.
When the Modi government got re-elected after the April-May elections, it again tabled the bill in Parliament. The Lower House passed the bill last week with 303 votes for and 82 against.
Under the new law, giving instant talaq would be a criminal offence attracting a jail term of three years and a fine.
It is expected to protect Muslim women’s rights and ensure them justice without interfering with their religion, prayer or ritual.
According to the new law, any aggrieved Muslim woman who is given triple talaq can approach a magistrate seeking subsistence allowance for herself and minor children from her husband.
The custody of her minor children will be decided by the magistrate.
Muslim men and groups and some mainstream political parties, who used them as their vote bank, vehemently opposed the bill, saying it is against Islamic jurisprudence and shariah gives men the right to divorce.
They argued the bill criminalises triple talaq and violates one’s fundamental rights.
According to them, the bill was unnecessary since a Supreme Court ruling in August 2017 had already made ‘triple talaq’ illegal.
They even said the NDA government was trying to destroy Muslim families by sending the husband who violates the bill to jail.