Understanding context of SC ruling on triple talaq: Divorce rate of Muslim women is thrice that of men

Among Muslim women, the largest percentage of divorces take place in the age group 20-34 (43.9%), in which only 24% of the total Muslim female population lies.

Written by ZEESHAN SHAIKH | Mumbai | Published: August 24, 2017 3:21 am
triple talaq, triple talaq verdict, muslim divorce, sharia divorce, muslim women rights, supreme court triple talaq, indian express news Women look out to the Haji Ali dargah in the sea off Mumbai on Tuesday, the day the Supreme Court struck down instant triple talaq. (Source: Express Photo/Nirmal Harindran)

Now that a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has struck down instant triple talaq in a complex, layered, split verdict, here are some figures that describe the social context to which the judgment speaks. Data from the Census of India, 2011, showed that while among all religious communities, the rate of divorce was significantly lower among men than among women, the disparity was particularly stark among Muslims. So while the “refined divorce rate”, or rate of divorce per 1,000 marriages, was 1.59 among Muslim men, among Muslim women, it was more than three and a half times higher — 5.63.

Buddhists came next on the disparity scale, the corresponding numbers being 3 and 6.73, followed by Christians (2.92 per 1,000 marriages for men and 5.67 for women). Overall, Census 2011 recorded the number of divorces per 1,000 marriages in India as 1.58 for men, and for women, double that at 3.10. (See chart) The lower refined divorce rate among men across the board suggests that men tend to re-marry at a far quicker rate than women — in other words, they stay divorced for a far shorter time.

While Tuesday’s Supreme Court verdict striking down talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq has been rightly hailed as a victory for gender justice, it is important to keep in mind that there are no concrete data on the prevalence of this form of divorce — the impact of the judgment is, therefore, difficult to measure. Muslim couples can divorce in other ways too, including through the intervention of religious institutions such as the Qazi and Dar-ul-Qaza.

In May — a day before the Supreme Court began hearing the legal challenge to instant triple talaq, the Delhi-based Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy (CRDDP) reported the results of its survey that showed that the incidence of this form of talaq was less than even 1 in 100. In this survey led by Dr Abu Saleh Shariff, best known as Member Secretary of the Sachar Committee whose 2006 report remains the definitive assessment of the social, educational and economic backwardness and deprivation status of Muslims, CRDDP surveyed 20,671 verified respondents — 16,860 men and 3,811 women — across India between March and May, 2017.

The survey recorded 331 talaqs reported by both women and men respondents, of which just 1 was “oral triple talaq”, where “talaq” was uttered three times in one go, without any witnesses or record. A survey conducted by the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case, however, reported a dramatically higher incidence of unilateral instant triple talaq. Of 4,710 Muslim women from economically poor strata surveyed by BMMA, 525 — 11.14% — said they were divorced. And of this group of 525 divorcees, as many as 408 women — 77.71% — said they had been given instant triple talaq.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, one of the respondents in the triple talaq case, says the rate of divorce among Muslims is lower than that of other communities. The AIMPLB has analysed data from family courts and various Dar-ul-Qazas across eight districts of Kerala, Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to show that the number of divorces among Muslims (1,307) were a small fraction of the number for Hindus (16,505).

By themselves, Muslim women do not appear the most vulnerable to being divorced in the Census data. The refined divorce rates for Buddhist and Christian women were higher than that for Muslim women (6.73 and 5.67 respectively, compared with 5.63 for Muslims). The refined divorce rate for Hindu women was much lower at 2.60, higher than only Sikh women (2.56 per 1,000 marriages).

Among Muslim women, the largest percentage of divorces take place in the age group 20-34 (43.9%), in which only 24% of the total Muslim female population lies. What is important to note, again, is that 3.9% of Muslim women divorcees are of age 19 and below, the most among all communities in this age group. As per Census 2011, the total number of divorcees in India was only 13.2 lakh — a severely underreported figure, according to activists. There were 9.09 lakh women divorcees (68% of the total divorcee population) and 4.52 lakh divorced men.

Cases of divorce are settled under a range of laws such as The Divorce Act, 1869 (4 of 1869), The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 (3 of 1936), The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 (8 of 1939), The Special Marriage Act, 1954 (43 of 1954), and The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

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  1. X
    xbjp
    Nov 22, 2017 at 2:28 am
    Triple talaq does not matter. Its ban is ok if it is a first step towards a uniform civil code. The real issue is equal rights for all citizens regardless of religion or ethnic origin. If any muslim, hindu or sikh or anybody from another religion wants to observe their own religious personal law they should be free to do so as long there is a voluntary prenuptial contract (like the muslim nikah nama) between consenting adults) the state again has no business interfering with the contract unless the contract is legally invalid.
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    1. N
      Neil
      Aug 25, 2017 at 2:09 pm
      Unfortunately this judgement does not go far enough and the honorable judges must have realized this by now. The right of a man to a unilateral divorce outside a court of law has to be taken away and polygamy in any form and for whatever reason has to be banned. Women cannot claim equality under the Indian Cons ution with these still permitted. Why were there no atheist/agnostic judges on the SC panel that sat in judgement. Urgent pe ions need to be filed to declare unilateral divorce and polygamy uncons utional.
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      1. R
        r
        Aug 24, 2017 at 8:58 pm
        Obviously they get talaq thrice!!!
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        1. H
          heena
          Aug 24, 2017 at 8:34 pm
          There is no verifiable or authentic data on what actually happened in a particular community. Hence every tom and harry role out some numbers in public media for consumption of innocent citizens. It looks all these data furnished are nonsense.
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          1. R
            r
            Aug 24, 2017 at 9:03 pm
            The Indian state ins utions have after having enforced banning of unIslamic dowry taken by boys parents instead if Meher ie dowry payable to girl at time if marriage has now taken on the more enforceable talaq which is given usually in strife and anger,, Bravo
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          2. Ismail Bambaikar
            Aug 24, 2017 at 7:19 pm
            1)hindu women has to give dowry to husband but Muslim women takes dower from husband 2)A Hindu father always deny inheritance to daughter because he enjoys power to will away all his property to his son but Muslim father's right to will over his property restricted 33 and son and daughter gets at least 66 . 3)Hindu women always at the mercy of husband and in-laws. women need to hand over her entire ry to husband and mother in law. Muslim women can keep all her ry and husband or in laws have no right over her money 4)Hindu women simply get deserted and unable to move on in life but Muslim women can demand instant divorce and move on in life immediately. Now some enlightened Hindu women should fight to get all the privileges for all women
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            1. D
              d
              Aug 24, 2017 at 7:45 pm
              Abey katwey, Mr Jinnah created Pakstn for katwaas to live. If you living in Pakstn then ok. But if you living in India, than you should go to your katwa country. And don't worry about Hindu, Hindus are safe without you katwaas. Many katwaas bhawdaas are already spoiling India. See Kashmir for example.
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