AIDWA Writes to Parliamentary Panel, Seeks More Time for Views on Personal Law Reforms

The women’s organisation term as “unacceptable” the committee's decision to ask for memoranda concerning entire gamut of personal law within a short period of 21 days.

File Photo.

New Delhi: The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has written to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law & Justice about reforms in personal laws.

The organisation, which has actively dealt with issues of personal laws for the last 40 years, noted its surprise about the Committee’s decision to ask for memoranda concerning the entire gamut of personal law within a short period of 21 days.

“This gives the impression that the entire exercise of asking for memoranda is not a serious attempt to get the opinions of various organisations and people working on the issue, but is just a formality. If it were serious in eliciting views and in getting Memoranda, the Committee would have allotted far more time for this purpose. It is unacceptable and absurd that suggestions for such wide-ranging reforms can be given in three weeks,” the letter noted.

In its memorandum, AIDWA unequivocally opposed a Unifrom Civil Code (UCC), stating that it cannot be equated to equality.

“The 21st Law Commission to whom the Modi Government had referred the question of the UCC, had clearly stated that “a Uniform Civil Code is neither necessary nor desirable.” It further recommended reform in different personal laws and tolerance of plurality and differences in the different personal laws. AIDWA advocates reform in different personal laws in consultation with the concerned community, particularly with the women of the community.”

Furthermore, the women’s rights organisation called some of the aspects identified for review “vague.” The Committee has said it is thinking about reforming personal laws, but it hasn’t delineated the areas which would be subjected to reform.

“This can only mean codifying Muslim personal law and perhaps laws which come under the Sixth Schedule, pertaining to the tribal areas.”

AIDWA said that mere codification does not give equal rights to women, adding that it could only be after extensive discussions with the communities involved.

“We have seen how Muslims have been targeted for exercising their choice to wear a Hijab and how this has affected their fundamental right to education. Also, the Central government, without protecting the rights of divorced Muslim women, initiated the law to put Muslim men in jail with an obvious communal intent for a practice that the Supreme Court had already declared null and void. Muslim youth who have been in consensual relationships have been targeted and jailed in several fictitious cases of ‘Love Jihad’.”

In these circumstances, we are fearful that on the pretext of reviewing of personal law, the effort may be to bring in uniform laws, which will be majoritarian laws, and not laws that give substantive equal rights to women. Uniformity of law by itself will not result in substantive equal rights for women, and in fact, will probably result in duplicating Hindu laws and their gender biases on all communities,” AIDWA said it its memorandum.

Furthermore, AIDWA wrote that nothing had been done to ensure equal rights for women over marital property. Additionally, as per AIDWA, Hindus and other women do not have equal land rights in agricultural property in a few such, such as Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

“Though the Hindu Succession Act was amended in 2005 to remove an exception which exempted agricultural land from the purview of the HSA, the inheritance to agricultural land continues to be governed by some state laws which actively stop women from this inheritance. In fact, these laws have been placed in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution with the intention of keeping them outside the purview of courts.”

The organisation also discussed anti-conversion laws, child marriage, etc.

“We request the Committee to make its position UCC clear so that we are assured that the present exercise is not a step towards bringing about a Uniform Civil Code. We, therefore, urge the Committee not to embark on this mammoth task in such a short period and withdraw the three weeks deadlines. We also urge the Committee to have hearings in centres throughout the country as has been done in the past on women-related Laws.”

AIDWA Memorandum on Reforms in Personal Laws.pdf 

Courtesy: Newsclick



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