India’s lower house of parliament has approved a bill making the Muslim practice of instant divorce, known as “triple talaq”, illegal and punishable with up to three years imprisonment.
MPs voted a few months after India’s Supreme Court struck down the practice as unconstitutional.
Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by Muslim personal law for family matters and disputes.
Those laws include allowing men to divorce their wives by simply uttering the Arabic word “talaq,” or divorce, three times — and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium, including telephone, text message or social media post.
Several opposition parties criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for not discussing the legislation with them before it was introduced to Parliament.
The approved bill will now go to the upper house for approval before it becomes law.
More than 20 Muslim countries, including neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice.
But in India, the practice continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious law in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.
While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched.