Sunday, October 16, 2016

Uniform Civil Code - Divide and Win

BJP government has suddenly taken up the Uniform Civil Code in the name of gender equality, harmony and progressiveness.  One India and One Law is the concept and has been heavily funded by some media companies in promoting pan India animosity among various political parties and communities.  One India and One Law can be catchy and media friendly to increase the TRP of television channels, but not even one percent of GDP growth.  Is One India and One Law is the forerun for One India One Language; One India One Culture; One India One Religion; One India and One ethnic, etc?     

Media started discussing and debating the law commission questionnaire issued on 7th October and we have conveniently moved away from surgical strikes and increasing terror attacks on border area.  Nevertheless, it is the arrogance of Law commission that prepared a questionnaire in an irrelevant and negative format like a school children survey questionnaire. I have no doubt that the government is not sincere and trying to divide people to consolidate Hindu votes in UP election.   

All India Muslim Personal Law Board have considered this Law commission approach is an assault on Shariah law and promptly opposing with tooth and nail. In fact, not even 5% of Muslims in India are governed by Shariah law and I am doubtful about its application among community.  People interpret the way they like and defend under the pretext of Shariah Law.   

Central ministers are clarifying it as ‘not’ against Shariah, but to give equality to Muslim women who are at the receiving end of unilateral divorce from Muslim men.  Let us see the current status of gender issues as concerned by our central ministers Venkaiyah Naidu and Arun Jaitely.
Divorce and alimony:

The average divorce number in India is 13 out of 1000 marriages against 500 out of 1000 in country like UK and USA.  So, it is a negligible number considering the records available in courts.  Further, the divorce is the last resort for any marriages and unlike west, the family and society is allowed to pacify the couples to continue their marriage relationship. 

Further, the divorce law in our country is favouring men than women.  Whereas women is in permanent loss when she is divorced due to less or no inheritance assets from parents.  Most of the assets are divided among brothers and women are left with zero inheritance because of dowry system.  It is important to note that dowry is not all accounted and recorded and therefore the divorced women can never retrieve all the amount and gold that was given to bridegroom family. 

Now, how is our government addressing this equality problem existing for years?  Is there any accountability and records like marriage certificate for dowry certificate?  What are the stringent measures taken to eliminate dowry system? As long as dowry system is existing in India, there is no gender equality.  Will the government has the guts to go against dowry system?

Further, the alimony to divorced women is 10% of husband’s income.  How many men are filing proper income tax to verify their income?  Assuming that men are genuine and filing their proper income tax including their immovable assets, court can issue degree to give 10% of his monthly income per month, which is almost nothing in today’s living expenditures to maintain a rental home, children maintenance, health care, food, clothes, etc., Men can further approach court to reduce the maintenance fee with fake certificates and loss of job, etc.    

So, how is our government is planning to take up this meager alimony which is not at all addressing the equality issue as claimed by ministers?

Indian brides accounts for 41% of murdered deaths worldwide as per records.  Not to forget that there are equal or more number of bride murders are not reported or filed as criminal case. 

Divorce in India – Analyses

Thanks to our culture and tradition that our family institution is still strong and withstanding the so called liberal assaults and able to maintain a strong bonding of husband and wife.    

The divorce percentage among Hindu community is 4.7% whereas Muslims accounts 5.3% as per 2001 records.  In year 2011, the percentage of divorce among Hindus has increased to 5.5% and Muslims to 5.63%.  Divorce among Hindu community has increased more in comparison with Muslims within a decade.   The divorce rate among the age group of 24 to 35 is also increasing in India.  The breaking of marriage is frequently happening between one and five years mainly because of stable income to both of them.  Adaptability is replaced with incompatibility and couples facing differences in marriage are not ready to give more chances to reconciliation due to financial security through employment.  These are side effects of double income and financial dependency for both male and female partners.  Western consumerism is attracting the couples to ignore the tradition and culture.  I don’t deny the irreconcilable factors that may lead to logical conclusion of separation only, otherwise, may result in murder or undesirable outcome, and therefore, divorce is the safer method to lead a peaceful life for both of them.

Now the question is why does the BJP government have filed an affidavit claiming that Muslim women are under constant threat of triple talaq whereas the divorce percentage between Muslims and Hindus are almost same?  Constant threat is an assumption and cannot be a valid reason for interfering in personal code of Shariah. We need valid statistics to prove that Muslim women are getting divorced for cheaper reasons because men have the advantage of saying talaq three times at once to get rid of the women.
Hindu reforms Vs. Sharia reforms:

Eminent scholars, experts and some politicians are pointing to 1955 Hindu marriage act and recommending uniform civil code.  There is a fundamental difference in Hindu and Sharia personal laws.  Hindu religious scripts are not addressing the marriage rules and regulations in any of their religious scripts.  The religious followers have their own traditional rules covering their marriage which may be good or bad depends on the circumstances and validation. In absence of such codification, Hindu marriage acts require amendment by analyzing the best possible codes derived from other society and practice of laws from other countries.
However, in Islam, the marriage and divorce is clearly codified through Shariah law.  In Islam, the marriage is nullified if ‘Mahar’ (which has no proper meaning in English, but let me use the word ‘dowry’ for name sake), dowry was not given to wife by husband. The dowry must be defined and demanded by the girl, not by their parents or guardians. She can demand any amount and the husband has no right to claim back or use the money for his or even family requirements unless wife agreed to it.  This has been clearly codified in Islam and is the practice in many Arab and Muslim countries.  In India, it has been left to the community to manage and has been largely misused or not practiced.  Muslim men are demanding dowry from women as happening in other communities and for the sake Shariah record, husband gives a token amount or gold as Mahr.  This has to be changed.  If the government will enforce the Muslim community to follow proper Shariah law, Muslim women will be better off than any other women.

Why don’t the government issues ultimatum to All India Muslim Personal Law board to bring much needed reform of paying proper ‘Mahr’ to women by men and bring to government records as part of marriage certificates?

There are undesirable method of divorces happening among Muslim community using triple talaq at once which is due to ignorance from both Moulvis and common man.  Shariah clearly codified that one cannot say talaq three times at once unless there any extreme condition, otherwise, it is considered one utterance only.  Meanwhile, wife also can ask for ‘kulah’ divorce from husband.  Both husband and wife can live together at the same house for next sixty days to see the possibility of reconciliation.  If still no reconciliation, the man can go on and confirm ‘talaq’ at second time and they can be separated until further reconciliation options are exposed by their family and community.  Third talaq can be uttered after exposing the final reconciliation options and it is the final act of separation under the supervision of family and community.  The woman can retain her Mahr and still claim compensation depends on circumstances if she cannot marry again.  The women can retain her Mahr even if she can marry again and no one can take away her wealth.

The question is how many such practices are happening among Muslim community?  Why not All Indian Muslim Personal Law board enforces a reform that gives more than equal status to women as clearly mentioned in Quran and Sunnah?

Meanwhile, I believe that the questionnaire is rightly opposed and rejected by All India Muslim Personal Law Board because Hindus are not bothered or disturbed much with their religious credence to govern their marriage law. In absence of such codification, naturally, the questionnaire is questioning the existence Muslims Personal Law and therefore the opposition from Muslim community.

What we need at this moment is to eliminate discrepancy in divorce law, alimony and right enforcement of Shariah personal law among Muslims and free education to minority, especially girls.  Literacy improvement will alone bring gender equality and protect women against men’s exploitations.   

India is a mini world comprising of all religions, culture, traditions, ethnics, languages and diversified thinking.  This is the beauty of India.  We grow with differences and our characteristics are totally different and stronger than others.  In fact, USA is artificial model of diversified thinking and culture, but India is quiet natural. If USA can be a successful nation with diversified thinking then why not India?  Instead of dividing people for votes and power, let the rulers think of how to garner the strength from diversified thinking and move towards a powerful nation. 

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