So, do you think ‘Gender Justice’ warriors, the erstwhile feminists have taken the right move demanding for Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to be made compulsory? Even though I saw many including MRAs talking about how legal reforms will be very fair if UCC was brought in but I could never form any opinion as I did not have enough study on this matter.
My participation in a Gender Justice workshop in IIT KGP forced me to know more about this as I heard Retired Chief Justice of Kolkata High Court Smt. Ruma Pal speak about UCC. I will come to what she said as the opening speaker in a while but first I would like to start from Indian Constitution.
Our constitution in Article 44 states: “The state shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”. The statement is however not so simple as it looks.
At a first glance, the phrase ‘Uniform Civil Code’ may seem like a civil code for all humans living in India a reason many MRAs were also supporting UCC but it is not so. Yes, the word ‘Uniform’ in Uniform Civil Code does not necessarily mean ‘Uniform’ the way any MRA would perceive it.
Before we try to understand the meaning of ‘Uniform’ in this context we need to understand the concept of ‘Equality’ in Article 14 of Indian Constitution does not mean ‘Equality’ the way any normal person would perceive.
Article 14 – Equality before the law
“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth”
MRAs perceive this Equality as all humans being treated equally but the gender justice warriors and feminists think of equality from the below perspective –
“Equals can’t be treated unequally and unequals can’t be treated equally”
For them, men are only oppressors and women are only victims and hence they are unequals and hence they need to get the preferential treatment they are getting today. Hence for them, Article 14 of Indian Constitution is something that an MRA would read as –
Article 14 – Equality before the law
“The State shall not deny preferential treatment to any woman (in the name of Equality) before the law or the special (unequal) protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth”
Now that the meaning of equality becomes clear to us we understand that even if Article 15(3) was not there, women did have a good alibi to get preferential treatment in the name of equality.
Now if we try to understand ‘Uniform Civil Code’ the way it is perceived by the Gender Justice warriors, aka feminists it becomes ‘Non-Uniform Civil Code’ as any MRA would read this. Because ‘Uniform’ in feminists parlance means – ‘Preferential Treatment’ to women.
To understand this feminized definition of UCC we will consider a few examples and see how the laws are proposed to be modified.
For the purpose of further analysis, I will refer to the speech of former Law Commission member Leila Seth at the IIC conference on January 4, 2005.
She explained UCC like this and I quote her –
“What does Uniform Civil Code mean here? We already had a Uniform Criminal Code – one that applied to all in the territory of India. We also had a number of civil laws which were uniform, like the Contract Act, the Transfer of Property Act, the Civil Procedure Code etc. So this Uniform Civil Code really referred to family laws, sometimes called Personal Laws.”
Please note, she mentioned that we had a ‘Uniform’ Criminal Code and we MRAs know that many criminal sections do not consider women as perpetrators of the crime. Then how did we ever had ‘Uniform’ Criminal Code? You know ‘Uniform’ here not necessarily mean ‘Uniform’ for the genders. So you know why WCD minister told ‘All Violence is male generated’.
Now if you think that the term ‘Uniform’ in ‘Uniform’ Civil Code refers to mean its true Dictionary meaning in the parlance of males of different religions you will be wrong again. As it does not mean that all males will be treated equally badly.
To understand this, we need to first understand that no government can modify any personal law totally. Our Personal Laws are driven by our social or customary traditions and can’t be completely overhauled. So if you thought that with Uniform Civil Code in place, Hindu men will get right to Triple Talaq or marry four women like Muslim men do, you will be wrong again.
Smt. Ruma Pal, Retd. Chief Justice of Kolkata High Court in her inaugural speech in IIT Kharagpur Gender Justice workshop on March 6th, 2017 clarified this. She said, under Uniform Civil Code now Muslim women should also get the right to Triple Talaq. She explained this concept by saying every Muslim Personal Law that has a ‘Man’ or ‘Husband’ word in it should be added with ‘and Woman’ or ‘and Wife’. That explanation did not mean that Hindu men (or women) would also get the right to Triple Talaq. Surprisingly, the concept ‘Equals can’t be treated unequally and Unequals can’t be treated equally’ was not pertinent here for some godforsaken reason. Also, the same ‘Gender Justice’ principle of changing the words was never said for Hindu laws that again considers men as perpetrators of all crimes and responsible for everything while women being victims forever. This is the concept that is carefully packaged as ‘Uniform’ Civil Code and as ‘Gender Justice’ by feminists.
So how is the concept of ‘Uniform’ Civil Code (UCC) fleshed out? This comes from Shah Bano case, a reference that is often given by the champions of UCC. Shah Bano a Muslim woman divorced by her husband in 1978, was first allowed maintenance from her husband in 1985 by the SC but later the judgement was reversed as Muslim women can’t get maintenance. The champions of Uniform Civil Code refers to this case for promoting the urgent need of giving Muslim women justice and giving them maintenance, but they never talk about giving men justice of getting maintenance or residence orders against their rich or capable wives. You need to understand men are only viewed as criminals by the gender justice warriors.
When Smt. Ruma Pal was speaking at the IIT conference, I raised the point of making even our criminal laws (like rape law or cruelty (498a) law) ‘Uniform’ and change the wordings to ‘person’ instead of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ and ‘Spouse’ in lieu of ‘husband’ or ‘wife’. Some lawyers attending the seminar did agree with me but that was not the conclusion as ‘Uniform’ code considers women are ‘victims’ of thousands of years of oppression.
But if you examine the literature available for ‘Uniform’ Civil Code, you will never understand that it is only the jugglery of words and it doesn’t mean what you may understand. For example, Leila Seth, in her 2005 speech said, “Like Criminal Law, the family or personal law should be same for all individuals, so that a plethora of personal laws do not prevent some women from having rights of equality available to others”. So you understand that the supporters of UCC actually talks about collating all benefits for women and they are talking about snatching all rights from men. Even though Leila spoke about the law being same for all individuals, she never wanted men to get any rights from their wives.
In her 2005 speech, Leila also said, “if this is not done, it is the women and children who are the losers. For men have managed to manipulate what laws are made by virtue of their position in society and/or religion to ensure supremacy.” So no matter which strata of society you belong to, a man will always be oppressor even if UCC comes into place.
She clarified this point when she said, “…do away with all discrimination between men and women and make a personal law that will benefit all Indian women without discrimination whether they are Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Parsi”. Note that the justice seekers under UCC seek justice (rights) only for women and NOT for men.
So if you ever thought that Uniform Civil Code will be uniform for all individuals residing in India, you are mistaken. Don’t just go by what feminists say, you need to really go deep into their demands to understand how skewed their thinking of uniformity or equality is.
- Smt. Ruma Pal’s speech at IIT KGP Gender Justice Workshop on 6th March 2017
- Leila Seth’s speech at IIC on January 4, 2005