India’s head of state pushes to replace religion-based laws | world news

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – India should replace religion-based marriage and inheritance laws with a uniform civil code, the chief minister of a northeastern state said on Sunday, aiming for rules which allow Muslim men, for example, to have four wives.

Successive governments have avoided adopting such a code 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 hardline affiliates want to roll out the code in some states to gauge the strength of any backlash ahead of a nationwide push.

“The majority of Muslims I met want a uniform civil code,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, chief minister of Assam state and senior official of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party.

“No Muslim woman wants her husband to marry three or four wives… just ask any Muslim woman and she will agree with what I say,” he told Reuters.

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Over 30% of Assam’s approximately 34 million population belongs to the Muslim community.

The code, which aims to unify and implement personal laws, will apply equally to all citizens, regardless of religion, gender, sex and sexual orientation.

The legal issues of marriage, divorce and inheritance are now governed by different religious rules.

Sarma said he favors the code as a way to end regressive religion-based rules and empower Muslim women who cannot easily challenge polygamy in court.

But critics see the code, which has featured in some BJP election manifestos, as part of the party’s efforts to stick to its platform and bolster anti-Muslim sentiment.

“There is no need for the government to debate Islamic religious practices,” said SM Siddiqui, a professor of Islamic studies in the financial capital of Mumbai.

“We don’t oppose some of the backward traditions that Hindus follow.”

(Reporting by Zarir Hussain in Assam; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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