Gender Inequality and Religious Personal Laws: The Limits of a Uniform Civil Code from an Intersectional Perspective and its Illusion of Secularism
by Rajdeep Johal
Rajdeep Johal is a Law graduate from the University of Warwick. Having engaged heavily with Family Law and Human Rights Law, she possesses a keen interest in issues affecting women. She is currently pursuing a gap year and participating in further opportunities to expand her interests.
Keywords: India, Religious Personal Laws, Uniform Civil Code, Gender Equality, Secularism, Intersectionality
Women’s rights in India are constantly evolving. However, what hinders progress is the existence of prejudiced religious-based laws that violate women’s constitutional rights. The opinions on the solution to these laws are divided. Many women’s groups, as well as the current Indian government, support abolishing religious law in favour of secular uniform laws known as a Uniform Civil Code. Other advocates for women’s rights support retaining religious-based law where each religious community reforms their laws to promote gender equality.
A third approach is also being advocated whereby an optional Civil Code is implemented alongside reformed religious laws. This paper argues against the solution to replace religious laws with a Uniform Civil Code. It questions the uniformity approach offered by revealing how nationalistic interests may overshadow aims of gender equality. It also explains why abolishing religious-based law is too simplistic of a solution. The underlying aim is to illustrate that religious rights and women’s rights are not mutually exclusive concepts.