The passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act by the Lok Sabha is an important step in the fight for gender justice. The law codifies the Supreme Court judgment that made illegal instant triple talaq, given orally or through other forms in one sitting. It will undo the injustice done to Muslim women by the 1986 law, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.
The current legislation is concerned only with the practice of instant or triple talaq. It does not make illegal or criminalise other pathways to divorce set out in the Sharia. The criminalisation of triple talaq, making it a cognisable offence attracting jail time of three years, provides a measure of protection for the women. It gives women the necessary and concrete backing in law to demand that the law and order machinery step in and take action. It also places on the police the onus of taking action against an individual who seeks to divorce his wife through the instant talaq route.
The hope is, in attaching real consequences, men will be deterred from using triple talaq as a threat to control women. The legislation acknowledges that even though triple talaq is not recognised by law, women who use seek recourse on basis of this law are likely to find themselves in financial difficulty. The law, therefore, makes it mandatory for the husband to provide support to his wife and children. This provision partially corrects the situation emerging after the 1986 law that was passed to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shah Bano case.
The fight against triple talaq is but a small part of the struggle for gender justice for Muslim women. That, again, is just one step in removing extreme gender inequality in the country that finds expression as violence against women.