Mumbai: BJP MP from Rajya Sabha and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi on Wednesday said that the time had come for reforms in Muslim personal laws during a discussion on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) at the India Today Conclave Mumbai 2023. The senior BJP leader called for gender neutrality in laws, citing polygamy and 'Triple Talaq'. 

In opposing views, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi defended personal laws, saying that the second wife of a Muslim man is entitled to maintenance and a separate house to live. Noted women's rights activist and lawyer Flavia Agnes, who was also part of the panel discussion, spoke about the need to bring in gender justice in all laws.

"What kind of a law requires a divorced woman, who wants to get married to her first husband again, to first marry and get 'Triple Talaq' from another man, to fulfill her wish?" Sushil Modi asked, pointing out the bias against women.

Owaisi, in his arguments, claimed that according to the National Family Health Survey, the difference between Hindu and Muslim men having second wives was not even 0.4-0.5 per cent. However, second wives of Muslims got their due rights. “She gets maintenance rights, a separate house to live, and is called a wife. Whereas if a Hindu man marries a second wife, she is not even called a wife,” the Majlis leader said.
He further claimed that 80 per cent of child marriages happened in Hindu communities.

The UCC has been a topic of intense debate for years now, and it has grabbed headlines again with the BJP-led government making a strong pitch ahead of the general election next year. The UCC is a proposal to formulate and roll out the

same set of civil laws to govern marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption for each Indian citizen, irrespective of caste, religion or sexual orientation. It would replace the existing religion-based personal laws.

Sushil Modi, who said that the first draft of the UCC can be expected sooner than later, said that when the Hindu Code Bill was introduced in 1955, the Hindus "vehemently" opposed it. "At the time, polygamy was more prominent among Hindus than Muslims," he said.

The BJP MP further said that when the Hindu Code Bill was brought forth, the Muslims said the time was not right for their community to undergo any such reforms. “It has been 75 years since India's independence, the time has come,” the senior BJP leader said, adding that Sharia (Muslims laws) has no link to religion and is not divine.

To this, Owaisi said, "What Sushil Modi , RSS and the BJP are trying to do is they want to bring in a Hindu Code Bill there will be exemptions because of their culture. So, for them religion means culture, for me, religion means religion."

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief and Hyderabad MP further said half of women are out of work. "You want to talk about gender justice, a househelp who works for 7.2 hours, doesn't get anything...What about Bilkis Bano? What about the rapes that are happening in Manipur? Now, these are important questions that the government must answer," he added.

Sushil Modi said that the five important elements that the UCC must include are minimum age for marriage, simple law for marriage, maintenance after divorce, eradication of polygamy, and compulsory registration of marriage.

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