Talaq… utter this word thrice and that’s the end of a marriage in India!
Such an outdated principle is still in practice in India among a section of the Muslim community, even when Pakistan and 21 other such Muslim countries have abolished triple-talaq, either explicitly or implicitly. It has been a controversial issue for over a century. But now, a Muslim woman has taken the extreme step of contesting it in India’s Supreme Court. Shayara Bano catapulted into national headlines with her petition questioning the legality of triple-talaq.
Muslim women have on a number of occasions asked the top court to grant them maintenance in the wake of an instant divorce, including the historic 1985 Shah Bano case, but this is the first time a Muslim has raised the wider issue of the rights of Muslim women being trampled on in the name of outdated Islamic practices.
Shayara Bano is just one of the many victims of the tyranny of triple talaq. Her story, as reported in the media, is gut-wrenching. She endured a bad marriage, an abusive husband who harassed her for her dowry, forced abortions and foisted physical and mental agony on her for over 10 years. Then, last year, her husband sent a letter to her parents’ home where she was staying for almost a year. Inscribed on that piece of paper were three words: “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq”. Bano decided to fight. But instead of approaching a court seeking maintenance, she opened up a much larger front. She boldly challenged the validity of her husband’s action of whimsically kicking her out, using the triple-talaq formula. She said she was made to undergo six abortions by her husband who forcibly administered her pills which ruined her health. “I could no longer bear the ordeal. I just want justice and to move on with my life,” the 37-year-old post graduate in sociology said. She’s a mother of two and longs to be with her children who are still with her husband.
As she gets ready for a long legal battle, Bano said, “There will come a time when triple talaq will be banned in India. When this happens, millions of women will be liberated from the fear that they are cruelly subjected to.” But what if triple-talaq is declared illegal? “I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it. All I know is that I’m not going back to him.”