GUWAHATI, India, May 01, 2016 (HOL) — India should replace its religious marriage and inheritance laws with a uniform civil code, the chief minister of India’s northeastern state said on Sunday. Its purpose is to set the rules that allow Muslim men, for example. , to marry four wives.
Successive governments have shied away from adopting this law for fear of angering India’s majority Hindu voters as well as its Muslim and Christian minorities.
But members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party and its hard-line allies want to extract code from some states to gauge the strength of any setbacks before national pressure.
“Most Muslims I have met want a uniform civil code,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of Assam and a senior member of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“No Muslim woman wants her husband to marry three to four women…just ask any Muslim woman and they will support what I am saying,” he told Reuters.
More than 30% of Assam’s population of about 34 million belongs to the Muslim community.
The law, which aims to unify and implement private laws, will apply equally to all citizens, regardless of religion, sex, gender, and sexual orientation.
Legal matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance are now governed by different religious rules.
Sarma said he favored the bill as a way to end regressive laws based on religion and to empower Muslim women who cannot easily challenge polygamy in court.
But critics see the law, which has been featured in some of the BJP’s election manifestos, as part of the party’s efforts to push its agenda and promote anti-Muslim sentiment.
“There is no need for the government to challenge the practice of Islam,” said SM Siddiqui, a professor of Islamic studies in the financial capital of Mumbai.
“I am not against some of the regressive rituals that Hindus follow.”
Reported by Zarir Hussain in Assam; By Rupam Jain; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
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