Triple talaq: India's battle against three words that grant instant divorce

Farha, far right, says her husband divorced her last year by saying Talaq three times.

Story highlights

  • In India, Muslim men can divorce their wives by saying talaq three times
  • India's Supreme Court will rule on whether the practice is unconstitutional

Jaipur, India (CNN)With just three words, Farha, a 30-year old woman from the northern Indian city of Jaipur, became a single mother of three young children.

Farha's husband instantly divorced her last year by saying "talaq, talaq, talaq" in a fit of anger after their 10-year-old daughter had asked him for five rupees (seven cents) to buy some firecrackers for a holiday celebration.
    Triple talaq, as it is commonly called, is an ancient and controversial Islamic practice where a man divorces a woman by saying the word talaq, the Arabic word for divorce, three times. Sometimes, it's even delivered by phone or text message.
      In theory, it should take three months to take effect. In practice, it is often instantaneous -- the woman forced out of the house with barely a moment's notice.
      India, home to the second largest Muslim population in the world, is among the few that do not ban the practice. Other countries with majority Muslim populations like Pakistan and Indonesia have outlawed the practice for years.
      Laika, 42, right, came to the organization for help after her husband gave her instantaneous divorce.

      Will it be banned?

        Yet this could soon change -- a move that would be a victory for Farha and others like her.
        The nation's highest legal advisory body, the Law Commission of India, put out a survey to Indian citizens in October 2016, asking about various ways to reform family laws and specifically whether or not to ban talaq.
        India's Supreme Court plans to constitute a 5-judge bench to rule on the issue of whether talaq and other practices are un constitutional. It has asked all of the involved parties to submit their evidence in support of their petitions by March 30.
        "In a Muslim society which practices talaq, women have no existence," says Farha, who adheres to the local custom of only using one name. "A man can leave a woman at any time because of any issue."
        Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) -- a network of Muslim women activists and organizations that operate in 15 states in the country -- is leading a nationwide campaign against talaq.
        Its headquarters in Jaipur -- known to tourists as India's Pink City -- is located in a dilapidated building in one of the city's back alleys, which stand in sharp contrast to the decorated rose sandstone for which the city is a famed. It's a one room office, barely six feet wide. Plastic chairs line both sides of the room. It is here that Farha came to seek help.
        Jaipur is known as the "Pink City" because its prominent buildings are washed in hue of pink.
        They have long worked with women like Farha who have been abandoned by their husbands, by helping them file cases with the police or by providing basic necessities.
        They aren't advocating the complete erasure of the practice from Islam, but argue that because of the way talaq has been practiced, women need some form of legal recourse when they currently have none.


        In the last few years, the campaign has picked up momentum.
        In 2016, a judge in a state-level court called the practice a "monstrosity," going on to say that triple talaq "is a cruel and most demeaning form of divorce."
        India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke out against the practice saying India cannot allow the lives of Muslim women to be ruined by three words said on the phone.
        Now, the BMMA is awaiting the decision of India's Supreme Court on its petition.
        In this photograph taken on April 28, 2016, Muslim shoppers walk through a market in Bhopal.
        The group's co-founders, Zakia Soman and Noorjehan, who uses only one name, are hopeful of a ban against the practice which the