Muslim Women in India Challenge ‘Instant Divorce’


With such divorces, which are available only to men, husbands can oust their wives from their homes, usually without any alimony or other financial support, leaving the women with few resources or prospects. Half of Muslim women in India are illiterate, and only 14 percent have ever worked outside the home, according to a 2014 study by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a Muslim women’s advocacy group.

But now the Supreme Court of India is poised to rule on complaints filed by five Muslim women who argue that being divorced in this way violates their fundamental right to equality under the Indian Constitution. Three Muslim women’s organizations have filed petitions in support of the divorced women.

The Constitution grants citizens the right to “equality before the law” and prohibits “discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste and sex.” But it also gives Indians “the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion” and allows every religious denomination the right “to manage its own affairs in matters of religion.”

In practice, although the Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens regardless of their religion, matters dealing with marriage, divorce, alimony and inheritance are handled differently by members of different religions. India does not have a uniform set of laws on marriage and divorce that applies to all citizens.

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