What Uniform Civil Code Should Look Like?


What Uniform Civil Code Should Look Like?

What Uniform Civil Code Should Look Like?_ichhori.com

Popularly UCC is being looked at as an instrument that will abolish personal laws. The advocates of the UCC in the Bharatiya Janata Party have posed it as a necessary step toward gender equality. This is indirectly a reference to personal laws, which are seen as regressive.

Hindu laws have been updated since the Hindu Code reforms were formed in the 1950s to the extent that Hindu succession and divorce laws are now gendered, equal. At first Muslim personal laws gave women more equality than traditional Hindu law, but with the Hindu Code reforms, happening in 2005 and amendments to the Hindu Succession Act, they are lagging in terms of gender justice regarding succession.

While the reform of equal gender rights is a welcome move, the form of the proposed code is a mystery, which has remained unaddressed by polemical speakers.

What is required to make laws of the country gender equal? A declaration of equal, property rights and equal rights for divorce, for maintenance and adoption are a good start, but they are not sufficient for achieving gender equality. These are reforms to personal laws.

Article 44 of the constitution states “Uniform civil code for the citizens –The State shall try to implement for the citizens a uniform civil code across India.”

This mandate is not restricted to only personal laws in the slightest.

The call for a uniform civil code should be seen for what it is: a constitutional call for equality in all areas of life. The proposed UCC would be effective if it is truly a call for civil code and not just a declaration of rights.

Need for a comprehensive civil code

A Joint Hindu family, which is a bit uncommon in the present times is becoming replete owing to the 2005 Hindu Succession Act reforms. Property can now be inherited by women, and they are now equally capable as men in their families to dispose it off. The family unit keeps on changing according to the patriarchal system where the woman goes and lives with her husband and his family. A ‘joint family’ has now remained more relevant for tax purposes than property law. But the majority of Indians are not heirs to any amount of property.

Issues like tenancy, access to housing, and access to stable and equal employment opportunities are more pressing issues for the majority of people than the matters of Joint Hindu families or the division of properties under Hanafi jurisprudence.

It is a well-known problem that how difficult it is for a single woman to rent a house. And it is more complicated if a single mother, Dalit woman, Muslim woman, or a woman from northeast India wants to rent a house. Employment opportunities are heavily slanted against women because of the wage gap.

UCC will address such issues, by which landlords will be penalised for denying a house to a woman, and for their bigotry and discrimination against women.

An employer discriminating against minors should be punished. These are the reforms the proposed UCC should focus on.

On the other hand, it should focus on other inequalities as well. Like the law protecting transgender persons that were implemented to end discrimination against them regarding housing, access to services, and employment, among others, a similar draft of rules should be extended to other vulnerable categories of people, including women, Dalits, and minorities and Adivasis.

Sexual minorities also deserve special protective laws, and the present environment has been more sympathetic to them and to other disadvantaged groups.

Developing a new code of progressive justice

The political pitch for the introduction of UCC looks like a blatant communal one, covered in the farce of progressive gender justice.

The people who formulated the constitution included Article 44 to guarantee equal citizenship, not in continuance of any majoritarian principles. This communal pitch needs to be countered by a progressive one exposing the hollowness of the communal demand but also showing the clarity and the true purpose and benefit of the constitution and the rule of law.

A new UCC should aim at eradicating the laws which are not helpful for many Indians, the reforms brought should be as revolutionary as Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Ambedkar did with the Hindu Code.

The Hindu law reforms fundamentally changed the nature of Hindu, and as a result, Indian society. Nehru faced opposition from his own party, Congress and he had to politically maneuver a watered-down version of the Hindu Code, which over the decades has been reformed to incorporate all that was not included originally.

 That diluted version set in motion a social system that changed the country. Even for Muslim women, the laws have become over time gender equal by giving them an option to adopt remedies under secular laws if they want to.

These reforms opened up possibilities and opportunities for many oppressed Indians, especially women, which would otherwise would have been unthinkable. An imaginative new UCC which aims to bring real reform rather than furthering its own communal agenda will be a pivotal event in the history of the Republic.

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