A Uniform Civil Code


The favorite pie in the sky, which never materializes.

What is this uniform civil code? Is it possible? Is it reasonable to expect one?
What is a Uniform civil code ?

Soon after Independence, Hindu inheritance laws were codified to give weightage to the females of the family. Since then other laws have also been formulated to give daughters their due.

Despite this codification, dowry continues and the daughter's inheritance in parental property remains as much of a question mark as in the Christian community where the women battled for rights accorded to them by the Courts.
While the devolvement of shares in parental property still remains a battle, daughters have already been made as responsible for upkeep of aged parents as their brothers; across the board in all sections of society, gender equality often takes the more obnoxious form of encashment of the last human resource.

Would the promulgation of a Uniform civil Code push the conservative elements off center stage and allow women their rights or otherwise ? To-date much of the focus has been on the "plight" of Muslim divorcees, especially those victims of the verbal talaq, talaq, talaq.

In that community, the order of male relatives who are to support the woman has been laid down. Whether they do so or not may be another matter altogether. 
But what of our Hindu women, rejected by in laws and parents alike, consigned to the flames, dead or alive? How many Muslim dowry deaths have been recorded to-date?

Is the Uniform Civil Code to arrive at any equitable formula for permissible quantum of giving and taking of dowry, whether in the form of presents,streedhan or plain and simple greed? Despite the Dowry act, despite the hue and cry over fiery dowry deaths, giving and taking of dowry flourishes under official aegis, Prime Ministers and their Deputies attend lavish weddings and the TV routines advertises what goodies are on offer for the marriage of your laadliand insurance policies to pay for that smasgobard.

And despite the ban on dowry, this essentially Hindu cancer has spread its tentacles into the Muslim and Christian communities; now even into the communities in the North East where matriarchy was the norm. 

Under the Uniform civil code, where will dowry go? Which customs will be adopted and promulgated as the All India Dowry Code; and what then will happen, e.g. to those high-priced auctions of civil services grooms, irrespective of caste and creed?

Another major area of concern is obviously Marriage. Does a uniform civil code imply :

' equal rights for all the citizens of the country ?
' Hindu rights for all the men

OR, judging by the noise being made

' Muslim rights for all men and the freeing of Hindu men from the onerous yoke of the Hindu Marriage Act that banned polygamy?

Not that Hindu men have turned monogamous. Statistics reveal quite the contrary. A 1975 Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India, indicated that during 1931-41, 1941-45, 1951-61, the percentages of polygamous marriages among Hindus stood at 6.79, 7.15 and 17.98 per cent.

Another 1961 census survey had revealed that the incidence of polygamous marriages was found to be highest among the tribal communities ( 15.25%), Buddhists (7.97%), Jains 6.72%, Hindus 5.8% and Muslims 5.7%. Clearly Hindu men were giving their Muslim brethren a run for their money at the matrimonial stakes, irrespective of legislation and so-called social stigmas.

Social stigmas are an eye-wash, what with second marriages with the permission of the first wife, contract marriages in the form of Gujarat's innovative Maitri Karars and the like, which offer 'married status' to the second wife, albeit without any rights.

It still remains to be seen whether the new infertility techniques will save very many marriages doomed by low female fertility or by male impotence.

It remains an open question whether that nebulously proposed Uniform Civil code will offer a healing touch to the obviously grey areas surrounding divorce in India, ranging from:

Which one will be the All India Divorce passport ?

Now, for the clincher:

If Indian men are going to claim the right to have a choice of wives in the name of uniform rights, why shouldn't the Indian female claim similar rights, given the quality of manhood that has survived these days ?

If the Uniform civil code is to be truly uniform, it should be able to offer uniform rights to all the citizens of India, irrespective of caste, creed or sex. That could also mean that under the new reformed scenarios, the women, like the men of India, will be allowed the right to four legal marriages. That is just one short of the Mahabhartian five of the legendary Draupadi, who is more of a role model for contemporary Indian women than the sanctimonious Sita.

What argue the younger generation, did the copious tears achieve, except the good books of MCPs down the centuries? After all, like Sita, Draupadi also followed her husbands into the obscurity of the forests for 14 years, a favorite number of our epic writers apparently.

But Draupadi was smart enough not to fall into enemy hands and to need to be rescued at great expense to health, life and limb; although the pre-historic equivalent of a World War attributed to Draupadi (instead of the vain egoes of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas) renders her non-too-popular with the Maryada Purshottam lobby.

When the Indian republic was founded on the premise of bringing under one umbrella all the myriad cultures and sub-cultures in the Indian peninsula, the slogan was "unity in diversity".

Why now this assiduous search for Legal Strait Jackets? 


More by :  Kusum Choppra

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