By Claire Zillman
August 23, 2017

In what’s being seen as a win for Muslim women, India’s Supreme Court has banned the controversial practice that lets Muslim men divorce their wives by simply saying “talaq”—or divorce—three times.

For years, women have challenged the practice in court. So what made the difference this time? The BBC reports that it was Shayara Bano, a 35-year-old mother-of-two, who last year became the first woman to challenge her divorce on the grounds that it violated her fundamental rights.

Bano claimed that she received a letter from her husband telling her he was divorcing her while she was away from home visiting her parents. Her petition demanded that the practice be banned entirely since it let Muslim men treat their wives like “chattels.”

Her case received a boost from a vocal campaign by the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement that had pushed for a ban for years. A decade ago, the group started compiling a list of women facing instant divorce and polygamy, and released a report documenting 100 cases in which instant divorce left women destitute. The organization sent letters to the nation’s leaders and collected 50,000 signatures calling for the practice’s prohibition.

Meanwhile, Bano’s case drew support from other women who filed petitions like hers. Those events led to the Supreme Court’s decision this week that the Islamic practice of instant divorce is unconstitutional.

Bano’s approach to the matter was effective because it targeted the rights guaranteed to Indians under the constitution—the backbone of nation’s democracy.

It was an obvious argument, according to Bano’s lawyer, yet she was the first to make it

“I wonder why no one thought of this before,” the lawyer told the BBC. “Maybe, it’s an idea whose time has come.”

—@clairezillman

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