G N Devy writes: On Uniform Civil Code, intent matters

Source: The post is based on the article “G N Devy writes: On Uniform Civil Code, intent matters” published in “India Express” on 14th July 2023.

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

News: The article raises concerns about the Universal Civil Code (UCC) in India, particularly its potential to overlook diverse cultural customs and linguistic rights, and its inability to address caste inequalities. It emphasizes the need for the UCC to respect diversity and promote genuine equality.

What is the impact of the UCC on Adivasi?

Impact on adivasi Matrimonial Customs: It could change the Adivasi tradition where men move to their wives’ houses after marriage. This custom, considered by many as fairer than the traditional practice of women moving to their husbands’ houses, may not be recognized under the UCC.

Influence on adivasi women’s rights: Adivasi women enjoy significant rights in their communities. For instance, in some Adivasi tribes, the wife can choose to end the marriage in consultation with the community. These rights might be threatened under a uniform civil code that doesn’t consider such practices.

Effect on adivasi property rights: Some Adivasi communities follow matrilineal inheritance, where property is passed down to daughters rather than sons. This unique tradition may not be accommodated in the UCC.

Adivasi customary laws and the UCC: Adivasi communities have their own laws and customs, which might not align with the principles of a uniform civil code. The question remains whether the UCC will take these unique practices into account or impose a standard set of laws, regardless of community customs.

What are the major issues with UCC?

Clash of traditional customs and UCC: The UCC might not consider unique customs of various communities, like the Adivasis or the Khasis. For example, Adivasi traditions of matrilocal residence or Khasi women being family heads might not be recognized.

Language recognition issues: Out of hundreds of languages in India, only 22 are protected by the government. The UCC may not recognize the right to speak in one’s language as a civil matter.

Handling of caste inequalities: The UCC may not adequately address caste inequalities and discrimination, leaving marginalized groups without proper protection.

Conflict between religious and civil identity: Religious identity plays a significant role in personal decisions like marriage. A UCC may find it difficult to reconcile this with civil law, leading to potential clashes.

Risk of majoritarian imposition: The UCC could be seen as an attempt to impose majority views on diverse communities. For instance, communities with different customs on marriage or inheritance could be seen as less “nationalistic.”

What should be done?

  1. The Universal Civil Code (UCC) must respect India’s diversity. It should account for unique customs and traditions of various communities.
  2. The right to speak in one’s language, a civil matter, should be recognized.
  3. The UCC needs to address and rectify caste inequalities and discrimination. It must carefully navigate the intersection of religious and civil identities, especially concerning personal decisions like marriage.
  4. Finally, it’s important that the UCC is not perceived as a majoritarian imposition.
  5. In summary, it must promote equality and respect diversity to avoid the risk of causing civil strife.
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