Mumbai: In the midst of a raging debate in favour of and opposed to the Uniform Civil Code, an influential group of Muslim women with members having grassroots support Wednesday challenged the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi to come out with a draft of the proposed law it intends to impose in the country.
"If the government's intention is not to gain political mileage out of it, and if it really wants to end the debate over the Uniform Civil Code which has already become murkier, it should without further delay release the draft of the proposed law", Zakia Soman, Founder-President of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan (BMAA), said while talking to ummid.com.
"The country is waiting to see how does the government want to tackle the varying traditions of different colors and customs practiced in the length and breadth of the country", she added.
Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan (BMAA) is since last few years actively working for the social empowerment of Muslim women. The NGO having members in almost every part of the country is also working on reforms in the Muslim Personal Law and codification of Muslim family law.
"Forget Muslims, there opposition to the Uniform Civil Code is known. But, are you prepared to challenge the marriages taking place between real brothers and sisters and practiced in some parts of the country?
"Have you guts to challenge the people who marry and share as wife a single woman with two, three and four brothers as can be seen in other part of the country?" she asked.
She also reminded the government that that national integration cannot be achieved by a common family law but by treating all citizens equally.
Agreeing to the questions posed by Zakia Soman, Dr. Abdul Shaban, renowned social scientist and Deputy Director at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), wondered what kind of national integration and unity we will achieve by marrying and divorcing in the same way.
"It will be interesting to see how this uniformity will be reinforced and with what consequences", he said.
Stating that the agenda of the Uniform Civil Code seems to be driven more by an agenda of demoralising minorities, Dr Shaban said, "Marriage rituals in Hindus are more diverse than in Muslims, and therefore it is going to be more opposed by Hindus themselves than Muslims or any other religious groups including other minorities.
"The tribal marriage rituals also differ as per tribes and regions in the country. How their customs will be harmonised with the agenda of those preaching uniformity?" he asked.
Raising doubts over the viability of a Uniform Civil Code that equitably manages personal relations like adoption, marriage, divorce and inheritance, Maja Daruwala, Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi, said, "Ideally, a new code should be guided by the need to ensure gender equity and destroy all elements of gender discrimination that plague us today.
"But too often the debate cannot get past loudly shouted morality. But whose morality shall we use?" she asked in one of her recent article.
"Shall we go for the living societal customs and practices of the Hindus or of the Muslims or the variations among the Buddhists or the Jains, or Sikhs, Parsis or Christians? Is there uniformity within religions that law makers can rely on?
"Are tribal customs more sensible than all of these? Will they ever be countenanced let alone be influential in the mix?" she asked.
"Then there is the issue of the elements of the Uniform Civil Code. Which elements do you take? For instance, is marriage to be treated as a contract as it is amongst the Muslims or as a sacrament?
"The former is seemingly the more modern idea but the notion of marriage as a sacrament is deeply ensconced amongst other social groups.
"There is also the whole issue about equity between the sexes. Can it be solved by forcing everyone to have only one wife or husband at one time or do we solve it by allowing everyone – man or woman – to have any number at one time?
"While one idea may sound more acceptable and the other outlandish there is no reasonable basis for deciding that one at a time has more merit than many at the same time, except personal opinion, which in itself is based on one’s own upbringing and not on any objective truth", she said.