A Uniform Civil Code Is Crucial To Protect Muslim Women From These Unfair ‘Traditions’

Posted on March 14, 2016 in Society

By Pillai Vishnu:

A veiled Muslim bride waits for the start of a mass marriage ceremony in Ahmedabad, India, October 11, 2015. A total of 65 Muslim couples from various parts of Ahmedabad on Sunday took wedding vows during the mass marriage ceremony organised by a Muslim voluntary organisation, organisers said. REUTERS/Amit Dave - RTS3Z5U
Image credit: Reuters/Amit Dave.

Many decades ago we got a Hindu Code Bill. At the time, it was opposed strongly by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and other right-wing Hindu organisations. But the political will of the other side was stronger and Ambedkar and Nehru were able to stand their ground.

Now, a lot of the evil traditions in the name of Hinduism have become extinct like polygamy and many other evil patriarchal practices of Hinduism which are rarely ever heard of anymore. We can all agree that the Hindu Code Bill did a lot of good to Hinduism and the society at large. This is the motivation you need to break out of evil traditions in the name of God and religion. This is the motivation we need now to expand the Hindu Code Bill to a uniform code bill. Isn’t it unfair that the Muslims have a personal code? Unfair because I think Muslims are Indians first. They are Indians who happen to be Muslims and not Muslims who happen to be Indians.

The need for a uniform code bill is not just equality in law irrespective of religion. A study by an NGO, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan found that 92.1 percent Muslim women were against the practice of ‘triple talaq’, whereby the husband can divorce his wife wife by saying the word ‘talaq’ thrice.

The very sorry story of the Shah Bano case should have provided our leaders with enough ballast to push for and implement the uniform code bill. But the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi thought it would be better to appease the Muslim community for electoral gains. If he hadn’t thought about the country in terms of votes, probably we wouldn’t have heard of Shayara Banu who was forced to have six to seven abortions (she lost count) and then later divorced by mail with those three fateful words written in it. We wouldn’t have heard of a judge divorcing his wife by the triple talaq either.

Surprisingly, triple talaq is either banned or restricted in countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan but it continues in India!

Divorce is fine, but let it happen in a court of law where the women have a chance to get what is due to them. That’s why you need a uniform code bill. Our patriarchal religions shouldn’t come in the way of the rights of women and gender equality. Religion shouldn’t be allowed in politics, or the law and, more importantly, it shouldn’t come in the way of justice.

Muslim personal law’s existence should be questioned especially when it stands in opposition to Prohibition Of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) for the Muslim community. The archaic Muslim personal law is just enforcing the tradition of not allowing young girls to have a decent shot at a good future. Instead, it allows these girls to get married at a tender age thereby, in most cases, forces them into a life of domesticity. And the country loses a bright future. Do you want to keep losing?

Polygamy has been described as a human rights violation by many women’s rights group across the globe on the grounds that it violates the dignity of women. The problem is that Muslim Personal Law gives cover to the practice of polygamy, where there have been cases of the wives being tortured physically and mentally and treated worse than animals in many instances.

Muslim personal law does not support family planning either. We can not afford to have people rejecting family planning at this time and age. In the older times, ‘more was merrier’ but at present, overpopulation is one of the greatest challenges we face as a country and as a civilisation. It would be unwise for us to follow rules formulated in a different time and place. It’s high time that we realised that rules and laws have to be updated with changing times.

I urge the Muslim community to support the push for a uniform code bill. It isn’t a threat to your religion. Support it because it would be a boon for your mother, sister, daughter and wife. Your support is important because we do not need politicians using religion to hold back a much-needed reform. Don’t restrict yourself to just being vote banks for politicians. It’s time you show how much smarter you are than the politicians and make them listen to you and not the other way around.