How Yogi Sarkar Can Solve The Menace Of ‘Love Jihad’ (With A Bit Of Help From Modi Sarkar)
Rights of women marrying under the Hindu Marriage Act or the Special Marriage Act vary greatly from those who wed as per Sharia.
The best solution is to ban inter-religious marriages under Sharia.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is contemplating taking measures to check the abuse in marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women, what is often referred to as ‘Love Jihad’ by Hindu and Christian activists who allege that Muslim men chase non-Muslim women for marriage in order to convert them to Islam.
Though this is an old issue but cases of abuse in such marriages have been rising over the years and have seen a sudden spike of late. The problem is particularly acute in the Western part of Uttar Pradesh where there is significant population of Muslims.
“There are increasing cases of love jihad being reported from different parts of the state. Thus the Chief Minister instructed senior Home Department officials to prepare a plan to stop such incidents,” Mrityunjay Kumar, media adviser to Adityanath, said as per the report in The Indian Express.
Hindi media regularly reports on such cases. See this (Meerut), this (Meerut), this (Meerut), this (Meerut) this (Lucknow), this (Lucknow), this (Kanpur) apart from five others, this (Lakhimpur Kheri), this (Aligarh), this (Hapur), this (Prayagraj), this (Bijnor), this (Amroha), etc. These are just few instances that have come to light from Uttar Pradesh in the last couple of weeks alone.
When one looks at these cases, a pattern emerges. Muslim men pretend to be Hindus, make fake IDs online and offline, wear Kalava, sport a Tilak while chasing a Hindu girl. After few weeks, they establish physical relations, film the act, then go on to marry the girls. Most of the marriages are done under Sharia law where women have to convert. The girls are usually in 15-20 years age group.
With no economic security and often dumped by their natal families for marrying a Muslim, these girls get trapped in an abusive relationship and a deeply unequal marital contract where women have no rights. When they protest, they are either beaten, left by the men and in some cases even killed.
The fact that only in marriages of Muslim men and non-Muslim women, instances of such abuse come to light shows that a) there is no smoke without fire and the allegations of the Left against Hindu activists for making a mountain out of a molehill are wrong; b) there is huge asymmetry in these inter-religious marriages so much so that it’s almost a one-way street. Marriages between Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women far outnumber the marriages between Non-Muslim men and Muslim women.
This is not surprising given that Quran forbids Muslim women to marry outside of the religion while it allows Muslim men to do so provided the women convert to Islam. More importantly, the abuse of women is rampant in marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women.
So, Hindu activists are correct to talk about checking this menace and Yogi Adityanath is rightly worried about the ballooning problem of crimes emanating from such unions.
While there have been calls to make a stringent law against ‘Love Jihad’, Uttar Pradesh government doesn’t intend to bring one anytime soon.
UP Home Ministry’s Additional Chief Secretary, Awaneesh Kumar Awasthi, has said that “as of now the existing law would suffice, but it needs to be implemented properly.” He further said that the government is looking into some issues such as making possible fast-track hearing of such cases, not allowing the accused to get bail, giving monetary help to the women’s family, etc.
While these are good measures, none of them addresses the root problem. The goal should be to prevent the women from entering into such toxic alliances rather than merely applying the band-aid after the damage is already done. And that can only be achieved with a proper law.
The core issue is this: rights of women marrying under the Hindu Marriage Act or the Special Marriage Act (SMA) vary greatly from those who wed as per Sharia or the Muslim Personal Law.
To marry Muslim men, non-Muslim women have to convert first — this is the condition for marriage under Sharia. It means that any non-Muslim woman marrying a Muslim man instantly losses all her rights as she enters from a more-rights legal regime to one with few rights.
The right solution thus is to ban inter-religious marriages under Sharia. Any person or institution (Maulvis, mosques, etc) who facilitates such marriage should be given exemplary punishment.
If a Muslim man and non–Muslim woman must marry, the same must be registered only under the Special Marriage Act in a civil court. Yogi Sarkar will have to work with Modi Sarkar on this front because only the Parliament can amend the SMA.
What would this achieve?
First, the women won't lose their rights and they will be a more equal partner (at least legally) as compared to their condition under the Sharia.
Second, minor girls (below the age of 18 years) will be under solid legal protection from exploitation. Every now and then, we come across cases where minor girls are converted first and then married under Sharia (legal age of marriage under Muslim personal law is 16). This will stop.
Anyone who indulges in entrapping minors to marry them can be prosecuted for rape or tried under acts like The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Third, a woman is not automatically converted if she marries a Muslim under the SMA. This would enable the women to continue to follow their religion if they feel strongly about it. Currently, they get converted first de jure but retain their religion de facto because their Muslim husbands promise them they can continue to practice their religion but then later renege due to family or community pressure.
But this is not enough. A new provision should be added under SMA for inter-religious marriages where the husband or his family can be prosecuted if they subject the woman to harassment or put pressure on her to convert.
Fourth, since a marriage under the SMA is allowed only if neither the man nor the woman have living spouses, it will put a leash on polygamy to an extent.
Fifth, because these marriages will take place under the SMA in India's official court system rather than be solemnised by a maulvi in a mosque, it will result in proper documentation.
We will have actual information from a database which can shed better light on the inter-faith marriages occurring in the country. It can provide us some good insights — most importantly — like if there is an asymmetry (and how much) in the kind of inter-religious marriages that have occurred.
Once basic protection is secured for non-Muslim women, the State’s role ends. All this may not still stop ’Love Jihad’ but it will put an end to abuse and harassment of women to a great extent.
The main responsibility for raising children lies with the family and if parents don’t want their children to marry people of certain ideologies they consider harmful, then they must channelise their energies on raising sons and daughters that way. Right family upbringing rooted in one’s culture and values is the only sure shot vaccine.
If the BJP governments in states as well as at the centre are serious about the issue, they must think of concrete ways that address the root cause of the problem rather than simply responding to symptoms.
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