POLYGAMY IN INDIA Syllabus GS Paper 1 – Social Issues)

News-CRUX-10     10th February 2024        
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Context: The Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly recently passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill, 2024 after a two-day discussion, aiming to bring uniformity in personal laws governing marriage, divorce, and inheritance across communities in the state (excluding tribals).


Sources of Government Data on Polygamy

  • Decadal Census and NFHS: The government collects data on polygamy primarily through the decadal census and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
  • Limitations: Both sources have limitations, with the census relying on indirect inference and the NFHS having a smaller sample size.
  • Census Data on Polygamy: The census infers polygamy based on the difference in the number of married men and women.
  • 2011 Census Limitation: The most recent census was in 2011, posing a limitation due to its age.
  • Sampling Size Limitation: NFHS-5 (2019-21) sampled only a small fraction (less than 1%) of households, limiting its representativeness.
  • 1974 Study: The last major study on polygamy in 1974 highlighted variations across religious groups.
  • Religious Disparities: Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists had higher polygamy rates than Muslims according to the 1974 study.
  • Discrepancy Analysis: The 2011 census revealed a significant difference between the number of married men and women.
  • Community Variances: Hindus showed the highest gap, followed by Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Buddhists.
  • Religious Breakdown: NFHS-5 data revealed varying polygamy rates across religions, with Christians having the highest incidence.
  • Scheduled Tribes: Scheduled Tribes reported the highest overall incidence at 2.4%.

Polygamy in India

  • About: Polygamy is defined as marriage between one person and two or more spouses simultaneously. 
  • Types of Polygamy: Polygyny, Polyandry and Bigamy


Legal Provisions

  • Hindu Marriage Act 1955: It made Hindu polygamy would be abolished and criminalized.
  • Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936: It had outlawed bigamy.
  • Muslim Personal Law Application Act (Shariat) of 1937: Polygamy is not prohibited in Muslim legislation because it is recognised as a religious practice, hence they tend to preserve and practice it.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC): Marrying again during the lifetime of a husband or wife, imposes a penalty for bigamy or polygamy, including imprisonment for up to seven years and a fine.
  • Article 44: The provision states that the State shall strive to ensure a Uniform Civil Code for all citizens.
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