The Senseless Obsession with a Uniform Civil Code - Hindus Will be Net Losers

Once again, the bogey of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has come to the forefront of political deliberations. UCC is being seen as some kind of panacea for a variety of problems that the Hindus face in India. The worst part is that many right minded Hindus seriously believe that UCC will be some kind of game changer in this country. This, when fact remains that UCC does nothing to solve the challenges of Hindus and their second class status in India. Nevertheless, one must realise that UCC does more harm to Hindus than good, and a few good and solid reasons exist for this. 

For this, let us have a look at what is being pushed for in the Uttarakhand draft of the UCC bill. As per twitter discussions, these are the thirteen key features of the bill:

1: Polygamy will be banned.

2: The age of marriage of girls will be increased so that they can graduate before marriage.

3: Declaration of live in relationship will be necessary. Parents will be informed.

4: In succession, girls will get an equal share of boys.

5: Adoption will be allowed for all. Muslim women will also get the right to adopt. The adoption process will be simplified.

6: There will be a ban on Halala and Iddat.

7: There will be compulsory registration of marriage. Without registration, you will not get the benefit of any government facility.

8: Equal grounds of divorce will be available to both husband and wife. The ground of divorce which is applicable for the husband, will also be applicable for the wife.

9: In the compensation received by Patri on the death of an employed son, the responsibility of maintenance of old parents is also there. If the wife remarries, then the parents will also have a share in the compensation received on the death of the husband.

10: Maintenance -- If the wife dies and her parents have no support, then the husband is responsible for her maintenance.

11: Guardianship- In case the child is an orphan, the process of guardianship will be simplified.

12: In case of a quarrel between husband and wife, the custody of children can be given to their grandparents.

13: The matter of population control. Uniformity in the number of children one can have.

The first point is rather amusing when observed from a Hindu perspective. Polygamy is effectively banned in India for Hindus. These issues are only meant to bring in reforms for other religions in India. The thing is this - what stops the government from solely focusing on reform of Islamic civil law on the lines of what Hindus faced under Jawaharlal Nehru and B R Ambedkar? Furthermore, on the third point of live-in, several court judgments have already granted legal status to it, and if need be, there can be a maitri karaar in the case of the Hindus. To unnecessarily bring in convoluted arguments does not make sense.

On the second clause, there should be a reality check. With Hindu birth rates going below Muslim birth rates, what exactly will the age of marriage achieve? This, especially when repeated court rulings have stated that Islamic law permits menstrual girls to be considered of marriageable age. This again goes back to the point of reform in Islamic law - what is the need to drag in Hindus in the bill, when they already have a clause of 18 years? The obsession to raise this age to 25 years has been present in the government; it remains to be seen how they will be able to implement this with respect to the special communities of India. 

The fourth clause is the most dangerous of all clauses, and will only end up damaging the Hindu numbers. What stops women from converting? As it stands, the Hindu girls are entitled to equal share. However, the clause does not state the case of what happens when the girl converts out of Hinduism. Going by the spate of judgments in the past, it is evident that parents will have no rights to disqualify if a girl marries against their wish and converts out of the faith and causes mental agony to her parents. A recent case of Madhya Pradesh where parents performed last rites of their dead girl actually was seen from a legal view as a case fit for mental cruelty proceedings. In such a skewed situation, the silence on the scenario is rather worrisome.

Muslim women being allowed to adopt is a laughable clause. Islamic law has strict and clear legal position which stems from practices mentioned in The Hadiths. In such a situation, does the government really think that it will be able to override religious belief? Again, much like clause six, this is more a case of reform of Islamic law, and does not need a UCC bill. This again goes back to stating that Hindus have to bear the burden of this nation's secularism. It is about time that this narrative was challenged.

The seventh clause is passe. The eighth clause however is rather problematic. With the existence of such laws as Sec 498A and prevention of dowry laws, how can there ever be equal grounds for divorce? Unless those laws are somehow altered or scrapped, such a law will remain in perpetual conflict. Clearly, this step has not been thought through properly. 

Clauses nine and ten read in conflict of each other. Why are the husband's parents not worthy of equal share, while the wife's parents are also the responsibility of the husband? Such anomalies in law make the law look facetious in nature.

Clause twelve is also an attempt at creating a strange social scenario that is not understood by its proposers. Grandparents are ideal as company to children but remain a challenge on raising children. Studies have shown that grandparents raising grandchildren often have less time for themselves and less time to spend with their partners and friends. This loss of social connections can be stressful and can contribute to depression and feelings of anger, loss, and grief. Also, what happens to children should their grandparents pass away due to old age? Again, no answers come to the surface.

Hindus will be net losers, as they were when the courts of the time actually upheld the Uniform Civil Code. As a tight slap to Hindus who do not even control their own religious or educational institutions and govern it their way, unless those institutional rights are not brought at par with other religions in India, all such exercises are meaningless. What is the way we differentiate in that case, should we choose to practice our religion? And what would keep us separate or distinct from others? When education and institutional discrimination cannot be scrapped, Hindus will continue to be in an asymmetrical struggle in society despite being the largest in numbers. Enough cases can be seen in so called progressive states where those who wish to be secular suffer at the hands of the state, which stands captured by other sections of society. Unless assurance of preventing state capture cannot be ensured, such endeavours will become meaningless. 

These are some initial thoughts. If interest rises, I will start discussing this in more detail in the near future.


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