Over a million Muslims from across India, the majority of them women, have signed a petition to end the controversial divorce practice of triple talaq.
Triple talaq is an Islamic practice where a man can divorce his wife by saying “talaq,” the Arabic word for divorce, three times.
The petition was started by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an Islamic organization affiliated with the right wing Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The RSS is linked to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“For a long time when we were not in the government, the BJP had, and still has, the ideology that gender equality is a must, irrespective of religion or caste,” BJP official Sidharth Amarnath Singh told CNN.
The positive response to the petition has been linked with BJP’s recent success in state elections in northern Uttar Pradesh.
“The fact that the BJP was able to get Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh … suggest that the party and the central government need to heed the voice of the Muslim women,” MRM national coordinator Mohammad Afzal told magazine India Today.
Last week, Modi’s party won in a landslide, taking 312 seats out of a total of 403, the biggest majority for any party in Uttar Pradesh since 1980.
According to the most recent census, Muslims make up 18.5% of Uttar Pradesh’s 200 million-strong population, the largest state in India.
Elected as a lawmaker for Allahabad West, a constituency where 90,000 of the total 400,000 voters are Muslim, Singh noted that although Muslim women may have supported the BJP, it didn’t necessarily bring the party more votes.
“The women didn’t come out, and I was told subsequently, that the reason they didn’t was because they believed in stopping triple talaq,” he said. “Generally it’s been that they vote against the BJP so if you don’t vote for anybody, it’s a plus for us.”
India is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, but unlike most Muslim-majority countries, it has not banned the practice of triple talaq. In Pakistan and Indonesia, the practice has been outlawed for years.
According to the Quran, a man must consider his decision for a period of three months after he initially declared talaq. A divorce is only granted after the remaining two “talaqs” are stated.
The three-month period should allow for introspection and counseling between the couple and their families. The reality, however, is that a woman can be forced out of her home with little notice. Increasingly, it’s even being delivered by phone, email or text.
In recent years, the movement against triple talaq has picked up and India’s Supreme Court is due to begin ruling on its constitutionality later this month.
Modi has also spoken out against the practice, saying India cannot allow the lives of Muslim women to be ruined by three words said on the phone.