The Uniform Civil Code is about secularism and equality. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution talks about the Indian State being secular and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution provides statutory provisions for the existence of equality.
The definition of secularism is that all religions must be treated equally by the State and that the State must not have a religion of its own. The personal laws of any religion; Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, etc, should not affect the laws that govern the State and its citizens. In order to establish true equality among the citizens of the country, the State must enforce the Uniform Civil Code. Under the Directive Principles of State Policy in Article 44, it is suggested, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.” These were the guidelines laid by the founding fathers of the Constitution for the subsequent governments that were to come after independence.
Gender justice means social, political and economic equality for women. It suggests the abolition of the patriarchal system that has infused with the system. Gender justice is indispensable for ‘development’ in a true sense. Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution says, “The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.” This article is the embodiment of the two elements of the Preamble; secularism and equality.
Sadly, world history is evidence to the fact that one of the most neglected ideas has been that of women’s rights. Around half of the world’s population has been denied equality in almost every sphere of life. This statement is a testimony to the fact that equality without gender justice is no equality at all.
In India, the Uniform Civil Code is very controversial. It is ironic that the Constitution advocates for equality as a fundamental right of the citizens, which if infringed upon, can be challenged in a court of law. The Uniform Civil Code, on the other hand, has been included in the Directive Principles of State Policy, the suggestions of the Constitution to the State. These cannot be claimed by any citizen in any forum or tribunal. Furthermore, the Indian State has penal laws which are uniform for every citizen of the nation. No religion is given preference when it comes to penal or procedural laws. Had the case been different from what it is today, the punishment for theft could have been amputation of hands (Sharia law), however, The Indian Penal Code says that the punishment for theft is to be imprisonment for up to three years and/or fine.
The Uniform Civil Code, if implemented throughout the nation, would nullify the separate laws of marriage, succession, inheritance, etc, or difference religions, as it exists today.
The current scenario might be slightly different on paper but the harsh reality has not changed on ground zero. Be it the crime against women or their rights, there has been very little or no progress at all. However, the Indian scenario is far better than a country like Saudi Arabia, where women must be accompanied by men if they intend to go outside, women cannot drive and the right to vote is a recent addition to their arsenal of rights. The Indian Constitution gives a clear stand that there must be no discrimination on the basis of sex and therefore, there are laws to protect women from ill-treatment, such as Section 498A of the IPC. However, if we look at the data of women literacy, the ratio of women per 1000 men and the high instances of female infanticides, we are forced to believe that there is dire need of strict laws in various avenues of women’s rights.
The UCC and gender justice, in many aspects, have a relation which cannot be given a blind eye. The Muslim Personal Law give massive rights to men in comparison to women. The discrimination is borderline abusive in the concepts of iddat, divorce and inheritance. The exploitation soars high in the concept of muta-marriage, wherein the woman is denied all rights, even the right to end the marriage. Both concepts are interrelated and are complimentary in nature.
The Indian State has the necessary statutory bedrock for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and it should be enforced. It will lead to true equality among the citizens as its existence will strengthen gender justice, without which there can be no equality at all.