After drive against child marriage, Assam mulls banning polygamy

Sarma could not share data on the prevalence of polygamy in Assam but he said a lot of cases were detected in southern Assam's Barak Valley and central Assam's Jamunamukh and Hojai.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (Photo | EPS)
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (Photo | EPS)

GUWAHATI: The Assam government has decided to form an expert committee to examine whether the government has the authority to ban polygamy, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Tuesday.

The committee, to be constituted with legal luminaries, will scrutinise the provisions of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act, 1937, along with Article 25 of the Constitution of India, in relation to the directive principle of state policy for a uniform civil code.

Sarma could not share data on the prevalence of polygamy in Assam but he said a lot of cases were detected in southern Assam's Barak Valley and central Assam's Jamunamukh and Hojai. Polygamy is almost nil among indigenous Muslims and people who are educated, he said.

"During the drive against child marriage, we came to know that there are a lot of cases of polygamy. We found the cases also among people aged 60-65 years and the influential in the society," Sarma said.

"The crackdown against child marriage is not the only solution. After examining the data on child marriage, we realised that it is also important to ban polygamy," he said.

He also said that the committee would be given six months to come up with a law following discussions with stakeholders including legal experts.

"We want to take the community along with us. We want to discuss with Islamic scholars, intellectuals and personalities so that it is seen as a more consensus-building activity rather than a provocation," Sarma said.

He said the committee would examine the legal provisions as well as other personal and religious aspects.

"I studied law very carefully in the past seven days and I found that polygamy is not an essence of Islamic law. Prophet Muhammad preferred monogamy. Polygamy is only with the consent of the wife if she suddenly fell sick or the family was issueless for some reasons. On these grounds those days, not now, monogamy was the rule and polygamy an exception," Sarma said.

He noted that polygamy is practiced in Assam's tribal areas by individuals, not communities. Then, there is informal polygamy -- the practice of keeping a second wife and having children without entering into marriage. This is worse than polygamy, the CM said.

"The committee will give suggestions to curb formal polygamy as well as informal polygamy," he added.

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