New Delhi. On Wednesday, February 7, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code Bill with a clear majority. With this, Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to pass the Uniform Civil Code Bill.
Uttarakhand’s BJP government introduced the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill in the state assembly on Tuesday, 6 February. The Uniform Civil Code is one of the BJP’s key projects. In consideration of India’s forthcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections, it is also being viewed from the perspective of politicisation of religion.
With the legislating of the UCC Bill, in matters such as marriage and divorce, the same laws will apply to all the people of Uttarakhand, regardless of their religious background. Except for tribal communities, the bill will regulate marriage, divorce, custody of children, alimony, inheritance, and even live-in relationships among people of all religions.
The government has argued that the Uniform Civil Code Bill will apply similarly to all citizens of the country, with no discrimination based on religion, gender and caste. Along with this, the government has also claimed that the UCC Bill centres women’s rights and will lead to greater empowerment of women.
However, the declarations of equality and empowerment in the UCC bill are not inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community. Despite the claim of bringing uniformity, the law pointedly excludes sexual minorities, including lesbians and trans-women. The definitions provided in the UCC documentation only reference cisgender men and women.
Moreover, there is no mention of transgender people in the UCC Bill. The idea of live-in relationships is described solely in the context of heterosexual partnerships, and therefore precludes same-sex relationships.
The Mooknayak talked to 26-year-old trans individual Rexa Daanu, who lives in Dehradun and runs a community-based organization called Yaarian that works for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. Regarding the UCC Bill, Rexa said, “We have not been included in the UCC. We are also human beings, we also have the right to live, to live in the society. This law has been designed for men and women, why is it not for transgenders? We are not named anywhere in it.”
Osheen, a 24-year-old trans activist who also lives in Dehradun and talked to us about the UCC, said, “There is no mention of transgender and LGBTQIA+ community in the entire bill, it is only about men and women. Actually, the government does not want to let us be part of the mainstream, it does not want to include us in anything. We have always been sidelined and disacknowledged. Now, the UCC definitely states that partners in a live-in relationship or planning to be in one will have to register themselves with the district authorities. However, we also can have a partner, which means the government is not including us in the law. Instead, we can be fined up to Rs 25,000 as punishment for doing anything against the law.”
Osheen explained, “The situation of transgenders in Uttarakhand is already in a very bad way. But now the government is pushing us back even further by disregarding us. Transgenders have always been and even today only seen in terms of the ones clapping on streets and buses while begging for money.”
“Transgender people face a variety of problems since their birth and are also deprived of their rights and excluded from legislation. The trans community is also a part of this society, but we are not included anywhere in the UCC draft,” Osheen further said.
A queer student from Delhi, who did not want to be named, said, “Although this law is being called the Uniform Civil Code Bill, how can it be ‘uniform’ when it does not include the queer community? It only applies to heterosexual couples and same-sex couples and transgender couples are not mentioned anywhere in it.”
Tanya is a trans-woman lawyer. While talking to us about the Uniform Civil Code Bill, she said, “If you are bringing in a ‘uniform’ bill, but you fail to include such a large community in it, then the bill has huge shortcomings ... this is a big mistake. Whether in reference to marriage or live-in relationships, the bill is only about men and women, same-sex relations have not been discussed. Transgender has also been excluded.” Tanya further says, “The bill should include all the rights of LGBTQIA+ communities as it does for any heterosexual person. It should also cover all the issues pertaining to LGBTQIA+, similar to issues pertaining to any man or woman … only then can this be called a Uniform Civil Code Bill; otherwise, it is of no use.”
Tanya also said the law is being used a political tool, and personal laws of minorities are being attacked. Moreover, while the bill includes the concept of live-in relationships, they require permission from the authorities: “This is Manuwadi [Brahminical patriarchal] way of thinking and it promotes the Manuwadi imagination of women. This line of thinking means that women have no opinions of their own, they have no right to privacy. After 18 years of age, it is our decision as to with whom we want or not want to live. Then why are live-in relationships being so closely monitored?”