Uniform civil code will increase the pace of progress

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The Uniform Code is more concerned with socio-economic rights than faith. It is capable of making the country advanced by providing adequate rights to women.

Amidst the ongoing debate on Uniform Civil Code in the country, renowned economist Prof. Amartya Sen has called it a kind of hoax. He said, ‘We have lived with different civil codes for thousands of years and can live for another thousand years. The question is, how will it be implemented and who will benefit from its implementation? Sen, an intellectual who has done extensive research on the economic and social side effects of the problem of gender discrimination, was surprised by such a comment on the Uniform Civil Code. Sen knows very well how important the economic and social equality and participation of women in the family and society is for the progress of the country. He knows why the framers of the Constitution of India wanted to make a similar code in India on the lines of the Uniform Civil Code of France, despite strong opposition from some communities. After all, why Ambedkar, Nehru and Patel had to be content with keeping it in the Policy Directive Principles instead of the main clauses of the Constitution. Right from the Shah Bano case to the 2009 Goa civil case, the Supreme Court has been repeatedly reminding the Government of India that it has not complied with the mandate of Article 44 of the Constitution to frame a Uniform Civil Code. In the Shah Bano case, former Justice Chandrachud had written that Parliament should frame a Uniform Civil Code, as it would pave the way for national harmony and equality. Four years ago, a division bench of the Supreme Court, in a Goa civil case, praised the state’s Portuguese Civil Code, saying Goa was an example of a uniform civil code for citizens of all religions. That’s why I don’t understand why Prof. Why did Sen find the talk of Uniform Civil Code silly and baseless?

The Uniform Code brings uniformity in the laws relating to family succession, division of property, marriage, divorce and alimony by bringing them in line with international norms. Therefore it is more concerned with social and economic rights than with faith. The slogans of women empowerment that political parties raise to garner votes for women, starts from the family. In the countries of America, Europe, Japan, China, Korea and Central Asia, women and men are considered equal in family property everywhere. Polygamy is completely prohibited and there is a provision of legal divorce instead of oral divorce, after which alimony has to be paid. Many developed countries may not have a uniform civil code, but the laws of the land apply in family matters, which are based on gender equality. Some countries, such as Britain and Canada, recognize polygamy in Islamic countries under certain circumstances, but it is completely prohibited on their soil. Despite being Islamic in Turkey, Tunisia and Central Asian countries, the rules of marriage, divorce and property are the same as in Europe.

Now about three quarters of the world has left the traditions of gender discrimination and adopted the principles of gender equality. In such a situation, in India, which has a constitutional preamble of equality for all, it is a matter of great concern to maintain undue discrimination against women in the name of religious and tribal traditions. India scores below 50 on the World Bank and United Nations’ scale of equality, mainly because of varying personal laws that do not give women equal rights in everything from property distribution to marriage, divorce and family responsibility . Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey are also ahead of India. Sen has proved in the articles of his book ‘The Country of First Boys’ that women not getting equal rights in families is a major reason for malnutrition, illiteracy, exploitation and economic backwardness of girls. Social evils like child marriage and dowry system are also associated with discrimination in the distribution of property. Without equal rights to property, women find it difficult to take loans, open their own businesses, and become self-sufficient. According to McKinsey, this discrimination causes a loss of about $ 12 trillion (lakh crore) to the global economy every year, of which India alone is responsible for almost half. Uniform Civil Code can open the shackles of India’s women’s wealth and lead the whole country on the path of progress.

What a great irony that the parties engaged in collecting votes of small religious, caste and regional groups by all kinds of temptations, ignoring the interests of women, are engaged in misleading public opinion on women-friendly issues like Uniform Civil Code and alleged Women friendly organizations are silent. This code would have been made in the Constituent Assembly itself if all the 73 members of the Muslim League, most of the 93 representatives of the princely states and some conservatives of the Congress had not opposed it. Ambedkar also resigned because of the non-progress of the Hindu Code Bill, but not because Article 44 of the Uniform Civil Code was pushed. Later, the soul of the constitution was changed by the 42nd constitutional amendment made by Indira Gandhi during emergency, but did not dare to make a uniform civil code for women’s rights. The Rajiv Gandhi government used the biggest majority in history to please the clerics instead of following the court’s advice and overturned the apex court’s verdict on Shah Bano. True for political interests, but the present government has shown the courage to raise the issue of Uniform Civil Code. The irony is that those who should have stood in favor of it for the sake of equal rights of women, are standing against it.

(The writer is former editor, BBC Hindi)
(Thanks Daija.)
, Shivkant Sharma

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