First, Make All Polygamy Illegal – on Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

Source: The post is based on the article “First, Make All Polygamy Illegal” published in Times of India on 17th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 1- Society & GS 2 – mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.

News: In this article, author argues that instead of focusing on a full Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India, attention should be given to banning polygamy first. They believe dealing with other issues can come after polygamy is made illegal across all communities.

Why Polygamy should be a real target in the UCC debate?

Prevalence in communities: Even though the overall percentage is low, polygamy still exists in various Indian communities. For instance, about 1.9% of Muslims and 1.3% of Hindus practice polygamy.

Legal exceptions: Certain communities, like Scheduled Tribes and Muslims, are allowed to practice polygamy due to exemptions in the law. This discrepancy makes polygamy an important focus in the UCC debate.

Impact on gender justice: Addressing polygamy first can lead to improved gender justice. By banning polygamy, matters of inheritance and women’s rights can be better addressed, as demonstrated by the Hindu Succession Act following the Hindu Marriage Act.

Staged reforms: Tackling polygamy before other UCC issues allows for a systematic and sequential approach to social reform. This strategy proved effective with the Hindu Marriage Act and the Hindu Succession Act.

Minority rights protection: Focusing on banning polygamy prevents its misuse as a shield for other UCC issues. This way, the rights of the affected minorities, albeit small in number, can be better protected.

What are the challenges in implementing a full-fledged UCC?

Potential disruption to traditional practices: Implementing a complete UCC might disturb long-standing cultural practices. Some communities, like certain Scheduled Tribes, follow traditions like matrilineal descent or ultimogeniture, where the youngest sibling inherits property.

Taxation complications: The introduction of a UCC could impact the Hindu Undivided Family as a tax category. This might not be favorable for millions of Hindus who currently enjoy certain tax benefits under this category.

Multiplicity of socio-cultural norms: India is a diverse country with varied socio-cultural norms across communities. Harmonizing these into a UCC is a significant challenge due to resistance to change and the need to respect cultural diversity.

Reluctance in certain communities: There could be resistance from communities that are not ready for certain aspects of the UCC, such as the proposed ban on polygamy. As pointed out, only 1.9% of Muslims and 1.3% of Hindus practice polygamy, but the issue has been contentious in the UCC debate.

Balancing reform and respect for diversity: A full UCC must strike a delicate balance between implementing necessary social reforms and respecting the cultural diversity of India’s numerous communities. This makes the process of establishing a full-fledged UCC quite challenging.

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