How Our ‘Extremist’ Neighbour Pakistan Banned Triple Talaq in 1961
While it took India time to come around, 22 Muslim nations in the world abolished triple talaq a few decades ago.
In a historic verdict on 22 August, the Supreme Court of India struck down the validity of triple talaq with a 3:2 majority. The SC bench declared the practice “un-Islamic, retrograde, unworthy” and said that it “violates right to equality”.
While it took India more than a few years to come around, several Muslim nations in the world – 22 to be precise – abolished triple talaq a few decades ago. Included in this list is India’s estranged neighbour and infamously “extremist” nation, Pakistan.
Pakistan abolished triple talaq when it issued its Muslim Family Law Ordinance in 1961. The country revisited its marital laws after controversy erupted in 1955, when the then Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra married his secretary without divorcing his wife. The consequent protests compelled the government to put together a seven-member Commission to take a look at Marriage and Family Laws.
One of the key recommendations of this Commission was that the utterance of talaq thrice in a single session, should be counted as one. In other words, triple talaq or "instant" talaq should become invalid.
The Commission further recommended that for the divorce to be effective, the husband must pronounce talaq in three successive tuhrs, or the period between two menstrual cycles. These recommendations were presented in 1956. In 1961, Section 7 of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance was dedicated to talaq. It had six sub-sections, they are as follows:
- After pronouncing talaq, a man has to provide notice to the Chairman of the Union Council, informing him of his decision, and also supplying a copy to his wife.
- Failure to do so could invite punishment up to one year or a fine of Rs 5,000.
- A talaq is not valid until 90 days after the man provides a notice to the chairman.
- The chairman is obligated to commence arbitration proceedings for reconciling the couple within 30 days of receiving the notice.
- If the wife is pregnant, the talaq won't be effective until after 90 days or the pregnancy, whichever comes later.
- “Nothing shall debar a wife, whose marriage has been terminated by talaq effective under this section, from marrying the same husband, without an intervening marriage with a third person, unless such termination is for the third time, so effective.”
Point six implies that nikah halala was also decreed unconstititional. In 1971, when Bangladesh won its independence, it inherited this historic marriage ordinance.
Other key Islamic countries to abolish triple talaq include Egypt, the first nation to reform its divorce system in 1929; Tunisia, that decreed in 1956 that no divorce outside a court of law would have any validity, and Turkey, which adopted the modern Swiss Civil Code in 1926, among others.
Incidentally, Sri Lanka too, which has a significant Muslim minority (like India), has adopted a model of laws that effectively abolished triple talaq. According to the Marriage and Divorce (Muslim) Act 1951, a man who wishes to end his marriage, can only do so by giving a “notice of his intention to the Qazi”. The Qazi then attempts reconciliation between the couple, and the reconciliation period is of 30 days. If the differences are not met, the husband is permitted to pronounce talaq, but only in the presence of two other witnesses and the Qazi himself.
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