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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Uniform Civil Code in not the Panacea

Uniform Civil Code for all Indians
Mike Ghouse

Our Laws punish one for murdering, stealing, raping and robbing. Has that stopped the violators? Bribery is a crime, has that stopped any politicians and a government servant from taking bribes? Don’t most people contribute to that behavior?

How many shameless men have an illegal second woman on their side? Certainly, more in numbers than the ones who have a second wife? The spousal abuse continues, the shameless men say that a woman is like a man’s footwear, that a woman must be kept in place. Dowry continues to be a demoralizing aspect of our society leaving several young girls remains single and some times victims of bad guys.

It takes time to bring about a social change. Many have suggested that UCC is the panacea; the real question is, is it?

The reasons Muslims were allowed to marry more than one wife are gradually disappearing; historically during wars many a women became widow and bad guys took advantage of them, they do that in every place in the world, instead of leaving them on street to beg and sell their flesh, the Muslim society wanted to give them dignity and respect; Women who cannot get married due to financial difficulties, it was a respect shown to them; Marriages that did not bear children and several social reasons. The condition was that the first wife must approve the other marriages to prevent a guy from marrying for sex, as marriage is a social institution.

Our motivation to change the laws should be driven by goodness to every one and not depriving some one from their right. Both sides dig in their heels and it becomes a power struggle, one wants to strip the rights and the other wants to challenge. Those that are small in their minds make it their business t to hassle Muslims, without verifying the facts on the ground. They need to clean their hearts from ill-will.

If there is goodwill, things will change. Less than a fraction of Muslims marry more than one woman, it is rarity and we should not base our laws on rarities. There are a higher percentage of men in India having more than one woman in their life, illegally of course.

All of us need to come together as Indians, not as Hindus, Muslims and others to have a generational plan, a 20 year plan to create societies with fewer problems. These values must be incorporated into our education system without derailing the existing one.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer, Moderator and a Blogger on Pluralism, Interfaith, civil societies, Terrorism, Peace, Islam, and India. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television networks offering a pluralistic perspective on issues of the day. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website www.MikeGhouse.net Mike is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer. The theme is consistent in his speeches, writings and workshops he conducts.


Convert to Islam, bypass bigamy laws?

21 Jun 2009, 0446 hrs IST, Insiya Amir, TNN
Most people famously proclaim that love is their religion, but there are some who use religion for love. Perhaps one such is Haryana's former deputy chief minister Chander Mohan, who became Chand Mohammed to marry his new love Anuradha Bali.

Mohan was with Seema Bishnoi, his wife of 13 years, when he met and fell in love with Bali. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 does not allow a man to take a second wife so Mohan converted to Islam. So did Bali. Both dropped their Hindu names and assumed Muslim ones.

She became Fiza Parveen. And thus began a salacious soap opera played out before the media - Mohan abandons Fiza, who attempts suicide. She accuses him of playing with her sentiments and using religion to make a mockery of her love. He returns to Bishnoi, then dramatically goes back to Fiza. Was religion used and abused to commit adultery?

It is not the first time a high-profile Hindu couple has converted to Islam to 'marry' even though the first wife is alive. More than two decades ago, film stars Dharmendra and Hema Malini married secretly. Women activists protested against the "illegal" marriage. Dharmendra, they pointed out, was already married and had teenaged children. But in order to give legitimacy to his union with Hema Malini, the couple had converted to Islam.

Advocate and activist Neelofar Akhtar says that such conversions and marriages are made worse because they both are a "sham". She points out that "there are no strict laws to register a conversion (so) people are misusing the religion to have more than one wife. In all Muslim countries, there are very stringent rules if a man wants to take a second wife". But in India "it is done this easily. There is need for a regulatory body to monitor such misuse."

Akhtar makes a good point. In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled in the Sarla Mudgal case that under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, a Hindu husband cannot marry a second time simply by embracing Islam without lawfully dissolving the first marriage. He would be guilty of bigamy, the Court ruled.

V Mohini Giri, chairperson of the social service organization Guild of Service and former head of the National Commission for Women, says, "Dharmendra's wife Prakash Kaur could have fought her case in court. But, like most Indian women who have been conditioned to ultimately accept their husbands' mistakes, she didn't complain and the controversy died down". Giri has been trying to close a loophole that allows a Hindu man to have more than one wife by simply converting.

"There is a law now that all marriages should be registered, regardless of religion. However, that is not being properly implemented. While we know of only high-profile cases like that of a married Raj Babbar tying the knot with Smita Patil, there are scores of ordinary women who have been abandoned by their husbands who have misused Islam," she says.

Akhtar says the only change is that "women are becoming more financially independent and aware of their rights".

She says forgotten first wives now "gather the courage to divorce their husbands or at least ask for maintenance if they remarry".

Change of a sort then. But not enough.

Qn: What is the greatest punishment for bigamy?

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