Language Log Twelve Years Later #3: Divorce by SMS

I suppose I might as well write a few more of these reviews. After all, there’s about five thousand to go 🙂

Post number 3 is a lucky case where a twelve-year-old link had not rotted. Which is a good thing, because the post in question is extremely brief, so it’s hard to figure out what’s going on otherwise unless you know a lot of relevant cultural background.

TL/DR: Islamic law is infamously unfair to women, so a man can divorce his wife very easily (but the opposite is nearly impossible). Technically, it is legal to divorce just by spoken declaration, but apparently modern courts have required a written message (perhaps due to difficulty of proving that a spoken declaration took place).
And a recent (as of when the article appeared on Language Log, so twelve year old now) Malaysian court case decided that, for this purpose, SMS messages count as written.

Which makes sense, I suppose, if you ignore that whole “unfair to women” part (I wonder what does modern Malaysian law – as of 2015 or so – say about the matter).

Incidentally, post 3 is one of the fairly few (mostly very early) Language Log posts that do not appear on the main menu (i.e. are not reachable by next/previous post links). The next post that appears on the main menu is number 5, the next one that does not is number 7; I’ll explain what is going on with 4 in Language Log Twelve Years Later #4, which should follow shortly.


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