The parliament approved a bill on Tuesday outlawing the centuries-old right of a Muslim man to instantly divorce his wife. Following Tuesday’s upper house vote it now only requires the signature of the president – considered a formality – to become law.
The lower house backed the bill, which will make anyone practising instant divorce liable to prosecution, last week.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has been pushing to criminalise “triple talaq”, under which a man can divorce by uttering the word “talaq”, meaning divorce in Arabic, three times in his wife’s presence.
“This is a historic day, the injustice that was going on with Muslim women, India’s parliament has given them justice,” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters at parliament.
The bill while being hailed and applauded by many is also drawing criticisms from select groups.
Some Indian Muslim groups have said triple talaq is wrong, but believe the practice should be reviewed by community leaders rather than the government.
Asaduddin Owaisi, an MP from the opposition All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party, said the BJP was targeting Muslims while having failed to reform Hindu society.
Nevertheless, the day is historic – India is one of the few countries where the hugely discriminatory practice has survived in law. Triple talaq has been criticised even among hardline Muslim schools. In 2017, the Supreme Court had already outlawed ‘triple talaq’ with a 3 -2 vote. The bill then proposed in the Indian Parliament was passed by a majority, and only needs a signature to become effective.