According to a Muslim custom that is rooted in tradition but not Islamic law, men have to say just three words to their wives if they want to dissolve their marriages.
“Talaq, talaq, talaq” — and he’s divorced.
But in India, a group of women petitioned the Indian Supreme Court to end the practice. This week, the court ruled 3-2 that the three-word divorce was unconstitutional and illegal.
Shayara Bano, 35, was divorced via this method on April 11, 2015. She was ill, and her husband of 13 years dropped her at the railway station so she could convalesce at her parents’ home. When she got there she received “a typed letter and all it said was ‘Main tumhe talaq deta hoon’ (I divorce you) three times. Two witnesses had signed it. And with it was a check for 15,000 rupees” — the dowry her father had paid at the time of the marriage.
Shayara, who has a master’s degree in sociology, was shocked and angry. The clerics she consulted said her husband was within his rights to divorce her, in absentia, and remarry. Her husband took custody of their children as well, though a legal case is pending.
“When something bad happens, you automatically find the strength to fight,” she said. She went to a lawyer and filed a petition challenging the practice, known talaq-e-biddat. Eighteen months later, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional.