ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Women, Personal Laws and the Struggle for Secularism

Women, Personal Laws and the Struggle for Secularism Vimal Balasubrahmanyam RECENTLY, on April 23, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment upheld the divorced Muslim woman's right to maintenance. The case got good coverage from the media. Some Muslim groups have reportedly criticised the judgment saying that it violates their personal law, while a Muslim lawyer has filed a petition seeking a review of the judgment. Judgments such as these need to be publicised for two reasons. One, unless Muslim women of all classes and especially from the disadvantaged sections are aware of the Supreme Court's ruling, it would be easy to dupe them into continuing to believe that the destitute divorcee has no right to maintenance according to the personal law. Secondly, all issues regarding various laws applicable to different religions are of relevance to the women's movement and in- formation on them needs to be spread, A major demand of women's groups in this country is that the government should enact a uniform civil code applicable to people of all religions. This was promised decades ago under Article 44 of the Constitution but there is no sign of any action towards implementing it. The laws relating to marriage, divorce, custody of children, maintenance and inheritance are still different for different religions although ours is supposed to be a secular state. Knowledge of how these different laws discriminate against women of different religions is necessary so that women, regardless of which religion they belong to, will realise their common cause in the demand for a common civil code. And for such knowledge to spread the media has. a crucial role to play.

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