Religion and law

Allow gay marriages, give couples police protection if needed, suggests draft Uniform Civil Code

The civil society proposal includes rules on marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance ‘in line with globally accepted values of human rights’.

Gay marriages should be allowed regardless of religious rules, and authorities may provide police protection to such couples if needed, a draft proposal for the Uniform Civil Code has suggested. The draft was signed by a group of civil society members and submitted to the Law Commission on Wednesday.

In July 2016, the Centre had asked the panel to examine the possibility of a Uniform Civil Code and submit a report. The chairman of the Law Commission, Justice BS Chauhan, had invited public comments and issued a questionnaire last October.

The draft submitted on Wednesday said that personal laws on marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance are “not always equitable and fair and do discriminate on the grounds of sex, gender and sexuality”. The draft code has proposed rules on these issues “in line with globally accepted values of human rights”.

Here are some of the recommendations in the draft proposal for the Uniform Civil Code:

  • The sexual orientation of a married couple or a couple living in a partnership will not be a bar to their right to adopt a child.
  • No non-judicial decree on divorce will have any effect on a couple wanting to leave a marriage through legal means.
  • While determining the best interest of a child in case of divorce, the religion or sexual orientation of a parent must not be relevant.
  • Every child, whether adopted or biological, will have equal share in a deceased parent’s property, irrespective of gender, religion or sexual orientation.
  • If this code comes into effect, the concept of Hindu Undivided Family will cease to legally exist, and all properties held by such families will be considered divided equally among those involved.
  • All other personal laws shall be repealed.

The draft was written by lawyer Dushyant (who goes by only one name) and signed by activist Bezwada Wilson, actor Gul Panag, journalist Nilanjana Roy, retired Major General S Vombetkere, historians Mukul Kesavan and S Irfan Habib and vocalist TM Krishna.

Article 44 of the Indian Constitution recommends that the state “shall endeavour to secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”.

The Uniform Civil Code has been a contentious subject for a long time. The Bharatiya Janata Party had said in its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections that it would bring in such a code. However, opponents have said that such a move would undermine the rights of religious minorities.

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