Uniform Civil Code And Gender Justice


The Prime Minister recently made a statement that he can’t allow lives of Muslim women to be ruined by Triple Talaq. He tried to pass on the message that he stands with women from minority communities on issues of gender justice. Saffron brigade as a whole has been consistently arguing for Uniform Civil Code. In this process, the Uniform Civil code is being equated with Gender Justice. The impression that is also being given is that Gender injustice is internal to Islam. It is only the Muslim personal law which is coming in the way of Gender justice to Muslim women. It is being maintained that Triple Talaq and Polygamy are allowed by these personal laws and troubling Muslim women. Hence uniform civil code thus would bring in Gender justice to Muslim women.

The question that arises is that, what does Uniform Civil Code (UCC) being proposed by Saffron Parivar stand for? Do they really believe in Gender Justice? Why are they talking of Uniform Civil Code?

Organizer, the RSS mouthpiece in its issue dated July 11 2016 mentions that Uniform Civil Code does not talk of marrying in a particular manner. Each religion can have its own patterns of marriage. The code would ensure uniform rights to all in marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance, custody of children, adoption, remarriage, etc. Since its intended beneficiaries are women in general, it is gender-sensitive and has nothing to do with religion. Issues of Organizer around same time also point out that Hindu code and Christian code have been adoptive of modern jurisprudence and only in case of Islam; there is resistance for the same.

Arguments are provided in a manner to point that RSS have been open to religious reformation and acceptable to changes towards modern laws and gender equity. A point however not mentioned is that when Nehru and Ambedkar were attempting at introducing Hindu code bill aiming at reformation within religion including on gender issues, among the vocal opponents included the RSS and other Hindu organizations in late 1940’s and 50’s. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder Janasangh had stated that Hindu code bill would “shatter the magnificent architecture of the Hindu culture”. It was argued as interference in the internal affairs of Hindu religion. Moreover, on question of women, RSS from the beginning saw them merely as a means of building Hindu Rashtra. Hegdewar in the annual conference of Rashtriya Sevika Samity in 1936 pointed “the aim of the samity is the awakening among women of Hindutva…..to help Hindu Rashtra progress……the ideal Hindu women is one who imparts the samskaras which help preserve our dharma, culture and nation.”

The four Hindu code bills passed in the 1950’s included a) The Hindu Marriages Act, b) Hindu Succession Act, c) Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act and d) Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. It is to be noted that the same organizer ran a campaign against Hindu code bill. One of its issue stated “condemn it because it is a cruel and ignorant libel on Hindu laws, Hindu culture and Hindu dharma. It stated that “we revolt right to divorce revolting to Hindu ideology”. Mukherjee repeated in Parliament “giving women the right to divorce is unacceptable”. In defence of polygamy, he even had stated that “if you cannot make monogamy applicable to all citizens of India do not do it for one section alone”. Hence the whole argument of RSS of being open to change only gets disproved from their past record.

It is also to be noted that the desire for changes within Islam is coming from an internal resistance. While it is true that there is a vested interest in protection of patriarchal system in the name of personal law by entities such as Áll India Muslim Personal Law Board’, there is an internal opposition for the same from within the community. All India Women Personal Law Board in its recently released ‘Sharia Nikahanama’ mentions that they would give equal rights for both Muslim men and women. It rejected any divorce done through SMS, e-mail, phone or video conferencing, besides rejecting divorce done on provocation. It also spoke of women taking divorce if her husband was found to have illicit relationship with another women or her husband indulged in unnatural sex.

Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has been quite vocal in its critic of gender unjust laws within the personal law. A study conducted by BMMA titled “Seeking Justice within Family: A National Study on Muslim Women’s Views on Reforms in Muslim Personal Law” highlighted the felt need of Muslim women for bringing in justice within the personal law. It has come out with a ‘Codified Muslim Family Law’. Among its demands includes: a) increase in age of marriage for girls and boys to 18 and 21, b) total bank on oral, unilateral and triple divorce, c) no to polygamous marriage, d) compulsory registration of marriages, e) maintenance support for wife and children during marriage, separation and divorce, f) rules for custody of children in the event of divorce based on the principle that mother and father are natural guardians of the child. Though within the personal law, they do stand with instances of gender justice to an extent.

Hence the logic of RSS that Hinduism was never resistant to change and Islam being completely resistant to change is not true.

According to a recently released statement by ANHAD and AIDWA, “the move of the NDA government to stealthily bring in the issue of UCC is obnoxious and condemnable. UCC is a politically motivated RSS-BJP agenda and is merely a stick in their hands to beat up the minorities, particularly Muslims.” It asserts that uniformity in laws does not necessarily mean equality. “All personal laws, including of Hindu and Christian communities, are deficient in terms of gender justice. Even today, Hindu laws related to property rights and guardianship of children is unequal and unjust and continues to discriminate against women.”

Given the above context, the statement by the Prime Minister indicating his concern for minority women is less out of concern for gender justice but guided by saffron agenda of minority targeting. While issues of triple talaq and polygamy need to get addressed, the uniform civil code (UCC) may not necessarily be the means for the same. As being pointed by women’s groups, what is required is not uniformity but Gender just laws.

Jayashubha works as a Teacher and has done her Post Graduation in Organic Chemistry.

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