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Toward a Just Family Law

Rohini Rangachari

Edited by Archana Parashar and Amita Dhanda
Routledge, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 374, Rs. 795.00


Redefining Family Law in India is a fresh look at family law, independent of religious personal law. The essays by scholars across disciplines honour Professor B. Sivaramayya who almost single-handedly waged a campaign for gender equality in family laws throughout his career. In their introduction, Parashar and Dhanda articulate their belief in an urgent need to generate a discourse of a just family law and note that there is a strong need for engaging scholars from other disciplines to analyse law and legal institutions. Consequently, some of the essays in the collection are by scholars from non-law disciplines to create an interdisciplinary discourse. Provided herein is a brief summary focusing on women as the center of the family divided into essays dealing with (a) the role of women in marriage, (b) women as labour inside and outside of the institution of marriage, and (c) laws dealing with women’s progeny, that is, the laws of inheritance and succession.   The essays start out with a work profile of Professor B. Sivaramayya to pay tribute to his scholarship on questions surrounding inequality and discrimination and the intellectual debt owed by scholars to him. The books of Sivaramayya cited in the introduction include Women’s Rights of Inheritance in India: A Comparative Study of Equality and Protection (1975), Inequalities and the Law (1984) and Matrimonial Property Law in India (1999). Readers interested in any of these subjects are advised to read the editor’s reviews for an insight into Sivaramayya’s works.   The first essay of the collection of essays entitled Inheriting Modernity, may be set apart from the other essays in the collection as it looks at family law from the perspective of religious intolerance in Christianity, Islam and Hinduism—towards others—others of a different religion or others of the same religion—‘an intolerance that finds its ultimate justification in religion itself.’ By way of illustration of the religious intolerance in Christianity, Vasudevacharya, the author of the first essay, discusses the violence unleashed by Christians against one another during the Reformation period, which provoked the thesis that religion’s role should be excluded from the public sphere and confined to the private life of the individual. He cites influential writers of the time such as Locke to show the indignant response to the human suffering unfolding in countries such as France over the issue of religion. He also notes that Protestantism’s individualistic character ...

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