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Love Jihad: Challenging the sanctity of love

What is love jihad?

Love jihad is an activity when young muslim boys or men allegedly target young girls belonging to non-muslim communities to convert them into Islam for love. This activity is based on the power of emotional appeal in religious conversion.

love jihad

The concept first aroused national attention in India in 2009, with claims of widespread conversions in Kerala and Mangalore, but claims later spread throughout India and beyond, to Pakistan and the United Kingdom. In India, in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014, Love Jihad allegations have raised concerns among various Hindu, Sikh and Christian organizations, while Muslim organizations have denied the allegations.

What is ‘love jihad’ law?

In November, Uttar Pradesh became the first state to pass a law against “forced” or “fraudulent” religious conversion.
The Allahabad High Court observed that conversion for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable, the Uttar Pradesh government enacted an ordinance aimed at curbing forced or fraudulent conversion, including for tying the knot.

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The burden of proof will be on accused, the convert, and the person will be proven guilty until proven innocent. The UP law, which strikes at the core of personal freedom and personal choice, runs the risk of misuse of a legally recognized association among consenting adults.

But it may not be the last as at least four other states: – Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Assam have said that they plan to bring legislation against “Love Jihad”.
It has dominated the headlines over the past few months in October; a popular jewellery brand withdrew an ad after the right-wing backlash accused them of promoting “love jihad” ‘Our love is love, not jihad’.

And then in November, authorities pointed to a scene in the same Netflix-accused television series, a suitable boy, a kiss, where a Hindu woman and a Muslim man share a camera pan for the backdrop of a Hindu temple. Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said it has hurt “religious sentiments” and directed the authorities to take legal action against the producer and director of the series.

What is the legitimacy of these laws?

The Uttar Pradesh prohibition of unlawful conversion of religion ordinance until 2020 prohibits any conversion, especially to marriage, even if it is with the consent of the person, other than obtaining prior approval from the state.

The Unlawful Prohibition of Uttar Pradesh Religion Ordinance, 2020, prohibits any conversion, especially for marriage, in the name of seeking to end conversion through illegal means be it with the consent of the person,and conversion can only be considered as legal when it is obtained from the state with prior approval.

Section 3 of the ordinance, prohibits any unlawful conversion and conversion to marriage generally.

Section 6 of the ordinance states that any marriage which happens with the sole purpose of ‘unlawful conversion’ or ‘vice versa’ will be considered as ‘null’ and ‘void’ by the family court is no prior approval is obtained from district court for the conversion.

“There is no legal basis to ban conversion even for marriage alone” Saidjayna Kothari, a senior advocate of the Bangalore based legal advocacy group and co-advocate of the Center for Law and Policy Research.

‘The right to convert to another religion is a fundamental right; this law strikes to the heart of it’, Ashwini Obulesh, an advocate for women and child rights and co-founder of Dhawan Legal Trust, a non-profit legal aid society.

According to Special marriage act, this law does not apply to inter-faith marriages, which means marriage between spouses of a different religion. The Special Marriage Act, which requires a month’s notice to the state with the intention of marrying, is considered problematic for couples who wish to marry against the wishes of the family or community. During the notice period, the magistrate invites objections to the proposed marriage, which can be challenging for couples.

First case after the enforcement of love jihad laws in UP

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A day after the new anti-conversion law came into force in Uttar Pradesh; police on Sunday registered the first case under it. 24-year-old Owaisi Ahmed was booked by the Derania police of Bareilly for allegedly pushing a Hindu woman to convert, threatening her and her parents.

The family of the 20-year-old woman filed a complaint. Preliminary investigations indicate that the two were in a relationship, and reunited last year before they were found and brought back. Even when Ahmed was arrested, the woman denied the kidnapping charges filed against her by her father. In April this year, the woman was married to someone else in the family.

IG, Bareilly Range, Rajesh Pandey confirmed that a case was registered against Ahmed under Uttar Pradesh VidhiVirudh Dharma Sampratirth Pratishthan, 2020, which was notified on Saturday. The government has said that the ordinance is for checking ‘forced’ and ‘fraudulent’ religious conversion.

Apart from the ordinance, the police have also lodged an FIR against Ahmed under IPC sections 504 (willful insult with intent to breach peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation), the station house officer, Daya Shankar said. The officer said they raided Ahmed’s house, but could not find him.

The new UP law provides for a jail term of up to 10 years, with all the alleged offenses being cognizable and non-bailable. The ordinance states that no person shall attempt to convert another through misrepresentation, coercion, horse-trading, fraud, or marriage.

If a person converts back to the religion they have recently been, it should not be considered a convert under the ordinance. Any aggrieved person can file a complaint, and the burden of proof falls on the accused or the person who has converted.

How this law challenges the Supreme Court’s verdict?

The Uttar Pradesh ordinance of religious conversion through marriage takes away from a series of decisions of the Supreme Court, which believe that the state and courts have no jurisdiction over the absolute right of an adult to choose a life partner.

The choice of a spouse, whether by marriage or outside, is part of a person’s “personality and identity”, the apex court has held.

In Hadiya case, Justice D. Chandrachud wrote a judgement which states that, in the matter of dress and food, ideologies and matter of love and partnership are central aspects of identity. Neither the state nor the law can decide the choice of partners or limit the free capacity of every person to decide on these matters.

The Constitution Bench in Puttuswamy or ‘privacy’ judgement held that the autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in important matters of their life. Any intervention by the state into an adult’s right to love and marriage has an “effect” on freedom. The intimacy of marriage is within a key area of ​​privacy, which is invisible, the court has said. “The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner should not be affected by matters of faith”.

In the Lata Singh case, the apex court held that the country was going through a “significant transformational period”. It said that, only the acceptance of the plurality and diversity of our culture will make the constitution strong. Relatives dissatisfied with the inter-religious marriage of a loved one may choose to “cut social ties” rather than resort to violence or harassment.

India is still a “Democratic and Independent country”, the Supreme Court noted. In the Sonny Geary case, the court cautioned judges to play the role of “super-guardians”, due to any kind of feeling of the mother or the ego father.

“Article by Sidhi Sharma”

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