Uniform Civil Code

I intended to blog this on Sunday, which was the 17th anniversary of the Babri Masjid Demolition (I remember that because it was also my 27th birthday – yes, I’m really old now) . Due to certain other activities, I couldn’t find the time to blog then so doing it today. I also want to apologize to my readers for not being regular enough at blogging of late. I hope to be more regular henceforth, but there are other things which are taking up a lot of my time.

So the other day I was thinking of the concept of the Uniform Civil Code and how the lack of one such is causing “religious arbitrage” (the most famous example being Dharmendra converting to Islam so as to marry Hema Malini). I was thinking of the BJP which is trying to establish one such code, but all parties that have a significant number of Muslim voters being opposed to it since monogamy is against the tenets of Islam. So I was thinking about this issue from a completely libertarian perspective, and this is what I have.I think I best do it in bullet points.

  • Any pair of consenting adults can have sex with each other and the state has no business bothering with it. The only excuse for the state to get involved in this is if one of the “pair” accuses the adults of rape.
  • Children in the backseat can cause accidents and accidents in the backseat cause children. Despite condoms and i-pills, there is a good chance that a random pair of consenting adults might produce kids.
  • Any man or woman can have as many sexual partners (long or short term) as he wishes. The state has no business interfering in this.
  • A pair of sexual partners might choose to live together, and make babies together. Society might impose conditions on them that they be “married” but the state need not know. The state is not supposed to bother about the fact that this pair is living together, apart from recognizing the same postal address for both of them
  • A citizen might choose to live along with several of his/her sexual partners, assuming all of them consent to the arrangement. Again, the state has no business interfering.
  • So when should the state be concerned about this institution called marriage? I argue that the only reason the state should be bothered about “marriage” is because of property inheritance principles
  • From the point of view of property inheritance, multiple “married partners” can be messy stuff. It can lead to extremely complicated cases, especially when the graph involves cycles. Hence, I suggest that without loss of generality, for the sake of easy legal redressal, any person cannot have more than one legally wedded spouse
  • This, mind you, doesn’t stop people from having illegally wedded spouses. For example, it is well known that M Karunanidhi has 3 wives, but I’m sure that he’s legally wedded to only one of them. When he dies, his property will naturally go to only his legally wedded wife and his children with them. The rest will get nothing. Nada.
  • However, clever financial structuring can be used to overcome this discrepancy. For example, a man might offer to pay a woman extra pocket money so that she become his illegally wedded wife rather than his legally wedded wife. I think concepts of CDS (credit default swaps) pricing can be used here in order to figure how much more the illegally wedded spouse and resultant children should get as “illegality premium”.
  • Given this framework, people of no religion need to fear the loss of practice. If Muslim society allows a Muslim to have four wives, he can as well go ahead and marry four women, except that in the eyes of the state, only one of them will be legally wedded to him. The rest will need to negotiate appropriate premia on pocket money
  • This “maximum of one legally wedded spouse person” can be used to legalize gay/lesbian marriages also. All that it takes is for the law to not specificallly mention that the spouses should belong to different genders.
  • Not having a uniform civil code can give room for religious arbitrage which needs to be discouraged
  • Hence, having a uniform civil code makes eminent sense. It wont have much impact on most people’s lives. And it will simplify a lot of laws and just make implementation better.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

7 thoughts on “Uniform Civil Code”

  1. The real problem with political issues is not in deciding what the right/just approach is. As you said, all it takes is a little bit of common sense to come to the conclusions that you listed above. The real issue is to convince the morons, mobs, convince those that are deriving benefits from the existing system to give up those benefits, arguing with idiots and guardians of culture etc. There are no neat and simple solutions for that.

  2. “I argue that the only reason the state should be bothered about “marriage” is because of property inheritance principles”.

    Why? Just get rid of the inheritance nonsense. A person should either make a will before he dies or the state will take over his assets. There are many good arguments why the state should be bothered about “marriage”, but property inheritance is the least good of them.

  3. As Mohan says, there’s already an option in the legal system to specify inheritances to anybody, related or not, with a will. That’s not acshully a valid reason to legally recognise multiple marriages.

  4. Btw, when I view this on Google Reader, the Great Google Baba inserts an ad at the end – for “scientology.org”. Just sayin’….

  5. But why should religious arbitrage be discouraged in the first place? Just like marriage, the state has no business worrying about that too…!

  6. What should be the position in case the “legally wedded spouse” dies and second “legally wedded spouse” is recognised? Shouldn’t the children of both spouses share the property inheritance rights?

  7. Many of the comments are good but they are really details to be added. But the idea as such is a very good one. If humans are just like animals (and most of them are), then the bullets points above make complete sense. I think morality-wise, monogamy is generally symbolic of loyalty to your spouse. Personally though, I feel having sex with anyone else than the person you love, is being disloyal in your relationship. But, the average human is an animal (*I don’t have the data to show it, but strongly feel so*) in his behavior just ridden by emotions than reasons, and these rules are comfortable to go by for such people. And, for the human who claims the moral high ground, he can always to stick to monogamy. (PS: I am not trying to put down or up any class of humans here)

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