Can a Uniform Civil Code Address Injustices for Muslim Women in India?
Can a Uniform Civil Code Address Injustices for Muslim Women in India?
Tawhida Ahmed
Avni Bahri
Arshia Sana
Abstract: Despite a long history of legal pluralism, India attempts to unify its diversity by codifying religious personal laws. Indian law currently permits multiple family law systems to function, which respect the beliefs of tribal and religious communities. However, Islamic personal law has been accused of discriminating against women because Islam contains different rights for men and women in accordance with the Shari’ah, derived from the Qur’an and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Shari’ah law aims to foster equity between the genders, and not strictly equal rights. Due to this, the application of personal laws within the Muslim community in India is argued to be the cause of injustices towards Muslim women, who are one of the marginalised groups in Indian society. The removal or restriction of the application of Muslim personal law is argued to be the remedy to such a situation. Governance of family law matters currently in Muslim personal law would be abrogated by the introduction of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India, applying irrespective of gender or religion. However, there are questions about the effectiveness of such a proposal to accomplish the goal of justice for Muslim women. Adding to existing literature on the topic of the UCC, personal laws and gender equality, this article takes a broader lens and argues that a UCC would only scratch the surface of what are multiple root causes of the injustices that Muslim women endure in India. The article argues that a UCC could not only exacerbate the injustices against Muslim women, but, crucially, would ignore the root causes of such injustices. The 21st Law Commission Report in 2018, in its assessment of the potential adoption of a UCC in India, flagged the ‘dangers of forcing uniformity’ on India’s diverse population. However, just four years later, the 22nd Law Commission Report of 2022 has taken up this debate once again. This article attempts to further the analysis of a UCC by addressing how the adoption of such a code might impact on the injustices Muslim women face in India. The article offers suggestions for ways forward to address the root causes of injustices that Muslim women face in Indian society.

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