By Udhav Naig
November 24 2016
Dravidian, Left, Muslim and Dalit parties, including the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, might have opposed the BJP’s attempts to enforce the Uniform Civil Code, but there seems to be a broad consensus – barring the Islamic parties – that there needs to be a reform of the Muslim personal law from within.
Even as they underlined that a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country cannot have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ law, the parties only disagreed with the BJP’s effort to reform — even if it means adopting a Uniform Civil Code – because it must come from within the Muslim community and not imposed by a party driven by Hindutva.
At a recent conference organised by VCK in Chennai where Left, Dravidian and Muslim outfits came together to oppose the Uniform Civil Code, DMK leader K. Kanimozhi had also echoed similar sentiments underlining the contradiction in BJP-RSS combine, which she alleged, has scant regard for women’s rights and equality, advocating women empowerment and equality for Muslim women. She had asked whether Hindu women don’t face oppression within the Hindu religion and community and what the BJP has done to alleviate it.
While those like Fatima Muzaffer, convenor, Sharia Protection Forum For Women, say that Muslim women do not need Uniform Civil Code but security, education and economic empowerment, prominent lawyers such as Bader Sayeed, who is also a former AIADMK MLA, say that this is primarily an issue about gender justice.
Asked to comment on how both the sides have debated the issue, Ms. Sayeed said that religion must not be invoked while talking about gender justice. “We must keep religion out of this. First of all, UCC is not going to be brought in tomorrow morning. And, have we not accepted Domestic Violence Act and Special Marriages Act as common to all already? The UCC will not apply just to Muslims, but to everyone. If marriage is a contract, as they say, then how can it be annulled unilaterally?,” asked Ms. Sayeed.
Poet Salma, an outspoken member of the community, said that this was BJP’s effort to steer attention away from their failures. “Women all over India struggle to use and implement the laws that protect them. This issue has nothing to do with religion. A common misconception is that Islam allows for the Triple Talaq,” she said. According to her, sections of Muslim men are misinterpreting the Islamic law. “Muslim women must form alliances with Muslim organisations, intellectuals and women’s groups so that they can reform this un-Islamic law from within,” she says.
Opposing any move to enforce a Uniform Civil Code, Ms. Muzaffer said that ‘talking about a civil code is just a waste of time’. “The Muslim women need security, education and economic empowerment, not uniform civil code,” she said.
Criticising the BJP’s “new found concern” for the Muslim woman, she said, “I wish he [Prime Minister Modi] had shown the same amount of concern when Muslim women were raped and killed in Gujarat in 2002 and when they are getting shot at with pellet guns in Kashmir.”