Under the Guise of Gender Justice


04:37 PM

1 min read
Under the Guise of Gender Justice Blog Image

Why in News?

  • A year after Assam Chief Minister’s crackdown on child marriage ordering arrests of family members of girls married before the age of 18, he has announced two new initiatives.
  • One is a move to introduce a Bill for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the realm of personal laws and the other is a new scheme, the Mukhyamantri Mahila Udyamita Abhiyaan (MMUA) to enable rural women to gain greater financial independence by becoming micro entrepreneurs.
  • Both the initiatives are a subject to scrutiny as to whether they are about empowering women and achieving gender equality.

The Context of Assam’s Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • After the Law Commission of India invited views on a national-level UCC last year, many states began to implement their versions.
  • Assam is the third state after Uttarakhand and Gujarat to announce that it is enacting a UCC.
  • The Assam CM has promised many new provisions pertaining to Adivasi communities and polygamy.

Concerns Around Assam’s UCC Implementation

  • Selective Exemptions and Polygamy Focus
    • Chief Minister has suggested that Adivasi communities would be exempted from the proposed UCC, but without providing a clear rationale for this selective exemption.
    • The emphasis on addressing polygamy raises concerns about whether the UCC is genuinely focused on achieving gender equality for all women or it is a targeted attack on specific religious communities.
    • The pointed remarks about polygamy insinuate that the UCC might be perceived as a measure to counteract the perceived prevalence of polygamy among Muslims, aligning with the popular myth rather than empirical evidence.
  • Gender Equality Concerns
    • Despite the CM's promise of innovative elements to address issues like child marriage and polygamy, questions arise about the UCC's actual impact on achieving gender justice.
    • The National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) of 2019-20 indicates that polygamy exists across all communities, with rates being marginal rather than the norm.
    • The UCC, therefore, may not significantly alter the incidence of polygamy.
  • Not a Definitive Solution
    • The incidence of polygamy is 1 per cent among Christians, 1.9 per cent among Muslims, 1.3 per cent among Hindus, and 1.6 per cent among other religious groups. 
    • The fact that Muslim Personal Law permits polygamy does not necessarily result in substantially higher incidence rates compared to communities where it is prohibited.
    • Therefore, the UCC's focus on polygamy might not be a definitive solution to the issue.

The Mukhyamantri Mahila Udyamita Abhiyan (MMUA)

  • The MMUA, with the budget of Rs 4,000 crore, aims to empower rural women by encouraging entrepreneurship as a means to achieve greater financial independence.
  • The objectives of this scheme are:
    • To develop women Entrepreneurs in the State.
    • To Provide Earnings to Women Entrepreneurs by giving them Financial Assistance.
    • To Provide Financial Assistance of Rs 35,000 to 40 lakh Women in the State.
    • Through the Financial Assistance women will have earnings of Rs. 1 lakh.

Concerns Around Assam’s MMUA

  • Risks of Self-Employment
    • The emphasis on self-employment as the primary strategy for economic empowerment introduces risks and vulnerabilities.
    • Self-employment, especially in a volatile economy, poses challenges such as meeting loan repayment schedules and generating profits from modest investments.
  • Conditionalities and Population Norms
    • Access to the benefits of MMUA is subject to several conditionalities, with the most prominent being population norms.
    • Scheduled Tribe (ST) or Scheduled Caste (SC) beneficiaries are required to have no more than four children, while for all others, the limit is set at three children.
    • Such population criteria are outdated and unjustified, given the contemporary evidence of declining fertility rates in Assam and across the country.
    • The latest data reveals a decline in the total fertility rate in Assam from 2.2 children per woman in 2015-16 (NFHS-4) to 1.9 in 2019-2020 (NFHS-5), which is below replacement levels.
    • The population norms, therefore, seem incongruent with the current demographic trends and the evident shift towards smaller family sizes.
    • The use of differential population norms for different communities, raises questions about the rationale behind these criteria and their potential discriminatory impact.

Broader Concerns Regarding Assam Government’s Schemes and Push Towards Two-Child Norm

  • Impact on Education and Unjust Exclusions
    • The exclusion of women with more children, justified by presuming they would be too occupied with childcare to manage businesses, is unjust and regressive.
    • This approach may disproportionately impact older women who are less burdened with childcare responsibilities but may be excluded from the MMUA due to the number of children they had earlier.
  • Violations of International Covenants
    • The imposition of conditionalities based on the number of children violates several international covenants ratified by India.
    • The international community's standards for promoting gender equality and women's rights may not align with policies that use family size as a criterion for accessing economic empowerment programs.
  • Sex Ratio Concerns and Two-Child Norm
    • The broader push towards a two-child norm in Assam is viewed potentially encouraging gender-biased sex selection.
    • Policies that incentivise or enforce limits on the number of children may contribute to a skewed sex ratio, a problem that is already observed in urban Assam.
    • The potential consequences of such norms on sex ratios not only violate principles of gender equality but may also have far-reaching societal implications, potentially intensifying existing gender imbalances.

Way Forward

  • Ensure No Communalisation of Policies
    • Within the larger communalised context in Assam, the state's inclination towards a two-child norm and population criteria may lead to discriminatory laws under the guise of promoting gender justice.
    • The communalisation of policies, intentional or unintentional, can contribute to communal tensions and biases, challenging the broader principles of justice and equality.
    • Policymakers need to be vigilant in ensuring that initiatives aimed at gender justice do not inadvertently contribute to communalisation.
    • Adjustments should be made to align policies with the overarching goals of non-discrimination and inclusivity.
  • Need for Nuanced and Inclusive Approach in UCC Implementation
    • To make UCC effective it should adopt a nuanced and inclusive approach rather than being perceived as a targeted legal instrument.
    • The contextual relevance of personal laws and their impact on diverse communities should be considered to ensure that any proposed UCC contributes positively to gender justice without perpetuating communal tensions.


  • Assam's recent initiatives, the UCC and MMUA, highlight complex issues surrounding gender equality, communalisation, and socio-economic development.
  • While the MMUA reflects a more contextually relevant effort, the UCC raises concerns about its selective exemptions and potential bias.
  • Therefore, it is essential for policymakers to consider inclusive approaches, ensuring that women empowerment strategies align with principles of justice, non-discrimination, and international agreements. Top of Form

Q1) What is the Law Commission of India?

The Law Commission of India was first constituted in 1955, and since then, it has been reconstituted several times. The Law Commission of India is a statutory body established by the Government of India. Its primary function is to review and recommend changes and reforms in the legal system of the country. The commission acts as a think tank for the government, providing expert advice on legal matters and suggesting measures for legal reform.

Q2) What is Uniform Civil Code?

The concept of a Uniform Civil Code is enshrined in Article 44 of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution. However, the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code has been a subject of ongoing debate and discussion in India. Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a proposal to replace the personal laws based on religious scriptures and customs governing different religious communities in India with a common set of laws applicable to all citizens irrespective of their religion. The idea behind a Uniform Civil Code is to bring about a uniform and consistent set of laws regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other personal matters, regardless of an individual's religious affiliation.

Source: The Indian Express