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India: Court Recommends Establishing Body to Regulate Muslim Marriage and Divorce

(Nov. 24, 2008) A bench of the Kerala High Court, which is in the southernmost portion of India, consisting of Justices Kurian Joseph and Harun-Ul-Rashid, asked the Government of India to set up regulatory bodies in states and at the national level to regulate what the Justices described as “indiscreet marriages and divorces,” for the protection of Muslim society. The court observed that in the early years of Islam, when polygamous marriages were permitted, there were a lot of orphans, widows, and captives of war who were unable to maintain a dignified life. Polygamy was considered necessary to provide for the unattached women and children in difficult circumstances. In fact, the practice was discouraged from the start by imposing stringent conditions. However, the Justices noted, even after the fifteenth century, some Muslims still followed the practice, unmindful of whether such circumstances existed or not. Now, although polygamy is illegal for Hindus and other groups in India, some Muslims still enter into multiple marriages. Thus, the Kerala High Court stated, there is a need to eradicate the system of polygamy among Muslims.

Certain Muslim countries, even if allowing multiple marriages, do not permit indiscriminate polygamous marriages. In Pakistan, for example, the taking of a second wife requires the permission of an Arbitration Council, and the husband must give his reasons for having a second wife. (Court for Body to Regulate Muslim Marriages, THE HINDU, Oct. 23, 2008, available at http://www.hindu.com/2008/10/23/stories/2008102350160100.htm.)