‘India Needs A Uniform Civil Code Now More Than Ever’

‘The question of Uniform Civil Code‘ (UCC) has remained a controversial topic in Indian politics. In a country like ours where individuals are governed on civil matters such as marriage, inheritance, adoption and succession on the basis of the personal laws of their religion, UCC will contain same set of secular civil laws for each and every individual irrespective of his/her religion, gender, caste, creed, race etc. Our country is a culturally diverse one where religion is a very sensitive topic and so bringing about a change in personal laws is a challenging task. The very idea of having a UCC has ignited many debates in the present political scenario and in the past too.

The principle for a UCC is mentioned in Article 44 in Part IV of our constitution. It is very interesting to note here that the provision for UCC is mentioned among the Directive Principles of State Policy and not in the fundamental rights as while making the constitution, even the members of the constituent assembly could not come to a consensus on this issue. While some of the members believed that such a code would encroach on an individual’s Right to Freedom others believed that it would coexist with personal laws.

Personal religious laws do not come before women’s fundamental rights.

India at that time was a newly born country with vast diversity and thus, the members of the constituent assembly didn’t find the time to be right to introduce such a change. But they did include it in the directive principles, as a guideline for the future governments. This decision seems to be well thought – as it was taken keeping in mind the social and political condition of that time. But since then our country has come a long way, in quiet many fields we have progressed a lot, we stand as the largest democratic country in the world yet sixty-nine years after the adoption of our constitution, the questions such as should UCC be adopted, is the country now ready, remain unanswered.

Though India has not been able to come to a conclusion, time and again the above questions have been debated upon by religious stakeholders, the common man, the government and the judiciary. Various cases such as the Shah Bano case, Sarla Mudgal case and the triple talaq case have brought in the forefront the injustices suffered by women due to the personal law systems. Take for example the Shah Bano case and the Muslim personal laws, Shah Bano married a man called Ahmad Khan but later he drove her out of his house and refused to give her the maintenance amount and so she filed a case under Section 125 of CrPC against her husband demanding her rights. But instead of providing her with the maintenance amount he gave her an irrevocable talaq and took the defence that since Bano had ceased to be his wife so he was under no obligation to provide maintenance for her as per the Muslim personal laws.

Though the Supreme Court passed judgement in favour of Shah Bano complete justice was not granted as the verdict was overturned by Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act of 1986 passed by the parliament. It is very clear that the act was only passed by the then ruling party to not anger the Muslim community and lose votes.

The fact that our women despite living in a democratic republic have to approach the courts for their basic rights shows that a Uniform Civil Code is the need of the hour. Even the Supreme Court of our country in many other key judgements pertaining to ‘fundamental rights vs personal laws’ has upheld the need to form a Uniform Civil Code. The apex court has always endorsed gender justice and in the Shah Bano case the court also held that “It is also a matter of regret that Article 44 of our Constitution has remained a dead letter”. The issue regarding UCC has also been raised in many other judgements such as Lily Thomas v.Union of India 2000, Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG) v. Union of India, AIR 1997 and the most recent being the triple talaq case.

Every religion has a different set of personal laws, and most of these laws are discriminatory towards women. Image source: Getty

Despite the need for a uniform code, vote bank politics and appeasement policies adopted by political parties prove to be an obstacle. For a country to grow, social progression is as necessary as economic progression and UCC is imperative for India to progress socially as it will not only help in eliminating gender discrimination but would also promote the cause of national integration.

Our country and our society needs a Uniform Civil Code now more than ever. Each religion has a different set of personal laws and most of these laws are discriminatory towards women and patriarchal in nature – thus violating the basic rights of equality and freedom of the women in our country. Yes, Article 25 of our constitution grants every citizen the right to practice, propagate and profess their religion and religious practices, but such practices should not be tolerated if they are violative of individual rights. And it’s not just the duty of our government to frame a Uniform Civil Code, if such a time comes when such laws are made then it is also the duty of each and every citizen of our country to accept and follow it, and respect the rights of other citizens – as only then our country will be truly democratic

Similar Posts

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below