Will Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Impact Muslim Women's Marriage and Divorce Rights?


Uniform Civil Code's Impact on Muslim women's Marriage and Divorce rights.

The creators of our constitution always dreamt of building a nation with secularism as one of the pillars on which it will stand, while others being equality for all and a socialist society. It would not be wrong to say that the dream of building a secular country that is fundamentally diverse was an ambitious one, it still is (however there is no denying that we have come a long way), and yet one of the most imperative and necessary goals to ensure justice and equality for all religions should be a top priority in a multicultural country.

In an attempt to make this goal realistic the constituent assembly after much planning and discussion added the provision of the Uniform Civil Code under Article 44 of the constitution, making it a Directive Principle – a guiding measure for the future governments to further deepen the secularism. Sadly, even after 73 years of independence, this provision remains just a piece of paper.

The discussions about the Uniform Civil Code rekindled recently after the verdict of the Supreme Court on the triple talaq practice of divorce under Muslim Personal Law. An argument that is usually made about the importance of UCC is to empower women.

Uniform Civil Code and the purpose behind it

Article 44 of the constitution deals with the Uniform Civil Code which states, “ The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

The primary aim that can be interpreted from the language of this provision is to have a common code for the citizens of the country, in other words, several personal laws will be replaced with this code which will give more uniformity to personal laws which otherwise are religion-specific. The Civil Code has a reason to inscribe in itself all the basic human values which would help in decreasing discrimination and promote equality among all religions and genders.

The constitutional creators saw it as an instrument that could bring change in the society, in the status of women, and empower them which the ancient personal laws were unable to do. This was one of the main reasons to include it in the Constitution, although a question which comes to the mind of the readers is if it was of such great importance then why was it not made a fundamental right?

The answer is that it was initially planned to be a fundamental right under Article 35 but the constituent assembly was unable to reach a consensus for the same as they believed that it might violate the religious rights of the people.

The above-mentioned was the idea of the framers of the constitution which is almost 70 years old. Let us also take into consideration the need for the UCC in present-day India. The first is the violation of fundamental rights which comes under Article 14-18 of the constitution which states the right to equality and prohibition of discrimination based on sex and religion.

The personal laws about marriage and divorce are unfair and biased, especially towards women and UCC can be a positive step in reducing the discrimination.

In current times, the country is increasingly driven by religious agendas and the development of women and their rights have taken a back seat. The implementation of the Civil Code will revive the ideas of national integration and development keeping the social discrepancies regarding religion, caste, and gender aside which would pave way for women's empowerment and equality.

One of the key arguments given for not implementing UCC is the conflict it will create between Article 25 which gives the right to the freedom of practising, professing, and propagating your religion and this directive principle of UCC will violate it if implemented. But this argument is not valid as Article 25 states that any reformative law brought in the future will not be trapped by the process of this fundamental right.

Which law can be more reformative than the one which tackles issues like women empowerment, religious equity, and bringing down the vagueness because of different personal laws? It is a question which has to be discussed before arguing that the civil code would be in violation of Article 25.

Let us look at an analysis of the Muslim laws regarding the social institute of marriage and divorce, the rights women have under it, and what changes UCC can bring to these rights.

Women’s rights under Muslim Law and the impact of Universal Civil Code on it

In this section, the rights of Muslim women regarding Marriage and Divorce will be dealt with, and aspects like polygamy, age of marriage, divorce, and maintenance and how these aspects can put women in vulnerable positions will be looked into. An interpretation of how this situation will change if the UCC is implemented.

Age of Marriage

Unlike most personal laws, the age of marriage is not based on the age of the majority as stated in the Indian majority Act, 1875. In Muslim law, a person is an adult if they enter into the contract of marriage from the start of puberty. The Personal Muslim law has given rights to the people who have reached the age of puberty to enter into a contract of marriage if they want.

In the case of Attika Begum v. Mohmand Ibrahim, the age of majority was regarded to be 15 years for both genders, this case also mentions that if evidence can show that the girl child has reached the age of puberty before 15 then it will be considered. But even girls who have not reached the age of puberty can enter into a contract of marriage by their guardians.

This gives the idea that there is no limit on the age of child marriage when it comes to Muslim law and this marriage can only be renounced by the girl before she turns the age of 18 years, only if it is not consummated.

The point of stating this is the fact that even when the women fulfill the basic reason of the contractual marriage in Muslim marriage i.e., giving birth to children it does not mean that they are psychologically and physically prepared and willing to accomplish that purpose. Moreover, this has deprived women of basic education and they are completely dependent on the notions and desires of their husbands.

Additionally, it also harms the women’s health as teen pregnancies can leave a lifetime of effects on the body, this accompanied by the desire of having a male child in a patriarchal society, lack of decision making and virtually no control over the family which hurts the mental health of young girls, generally, most girls who are married before they enter adulthood their husbands are quite older to them, due to this, her voice and opinions would be diminished.

A possible impact which the implication of the Uniform Civil Code brings is that child marriages will no longer be without consequences as a result women can have a better chance to get an education, get married at an age when they want and cannot be forced into marriage at an early age.


Under Muslim law, men can enter a contract of four marriages at a time and women on the other hand cannot enter into many marriages, this in itself puts the women in a vulnerable position and they are seen as a meagre childbearing machine which is against basic human rights.

Sometimes a justification given in support of polygamy is the inability of women to procreate and a reasonable rebuttal of a contemporary example of science and technology is that there are methods like IVF, adoption, and other clinical and non-clinical methods which can rescue a couple who are unable to conceive.

With the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code, the practice of polygamy under Muslim law would be eradicated. It will be a favourable step in bringing a positive change in the society which is far due. It will improve the position of women and they will be more secure and safe in society.

The likelihood of their exploitation can be reduced. Another important point is that this practice has been eradicated even in Islamic countries like Pakistan, Iran, Tunisia, etc. and it is about time for a secular nation like India which believes in the basic human rights to take an action.


Unlike Muslim men, Muslim women have only one way where they can divorce their spouse under Muslim law. It is called Talaq-e-Tafweez which is like a substitute power to the wife given by her husband. It is an agreement which dictates circumstances in which the woman can be separated from her husband. If the conditions agreed upon are practiced by the husband, then in that case the wife has the right to dissolve her marriage or the woman can approach the court under the dissolution of the Muslim Marriages Act, 1939.

While a Muslim man can announce talaq in different ways. Some respite was brought to the women after the Supreme court declared that the practice of triple talaq or Talaq-e-biddat is illegal and banned in the case of Shyara Bano v. Union of India. It was a ray of hope for Muslim women as the end of this practice with legal protection has made them more safe.

In addition to divorce, conventionally a woman under Muslim law is entitled to maintenance only in the iddat period which was modified in the Danial Latifi &Anr. v. Union of India which resulted in Muslim women being entitled to maintenance under section 125 of CrPC. These were the much-needed changes that had to be done to ensure that women had greater standing in society and were well protected.

Similar to the developments that came by the verdicts, the implementation of UCC will ensure a greater balance between the rights of women regarding talaq and divorce there would be some other stipulated legal ways through which Muslims can dissolve their marriage and it would be common to both men and women, as a result, it will empower women.

It is essential to note that the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code will not take away the religious freedom and entitlements of a person. It will only make those entitlements enforceable in the eyes of law, if an individual still needs to practice their privileges they will be free to do so till a specific law makes it punishable otherwise, they will not be restricted by the freedom to practice their religion, only those practices will be of any value in the court of law.


In conclusion, the implementation of any law whose objective is reformation is not easy and has its pros and cons so will the introduction of the Uniform Civil Code be, it would be a time consuming and tedious task but the pros outweigh the cons and will lead to a greater amalgamation of our society, empower the women and hence is something which requires to be reflected in greater detail by the governments keeping the benefits it can bring to the women as a top priority for the progress of the society.


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