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India’s ‘love jihad’ anti-conversion laws aim to further oppress minorities, and it’s working

Sanjeev Gupta/AAP

India’s ‘love jihad’ anti-conversion laws aim to further oppress minorities, and it’s working

Sanjeev Gupta/AAP

India’s ‘love jihad’ anti-conversion laws aim to further oppress minorities, and it’s working

Sanjeev Gupta/AAP

India’s ‘love jihad’ anti-conversion laws aim to further oppress minorities, and it’s working

Sanjeev Gupta/AAP

Love jihad” is a term used by these groups to suggest Muslim men seek to deceive Hindu women through marriage and convert them to Islam.

Ghazala Jamil, Jawaharlal Nehru University

A new anti-conversion law passed in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, is being used to prevent inter-faith couples from getting married. Media reports suggest right wing groups are preventing interfaith marriages by claiming it involves “forced conversion”, or what they call “love jihad”.

“Love jihad” is a term used by these groups to suggest Muslim men seek to deceive Hindu women through marriage and convert them to Islam.

Under the new anti-conversion law, passed on November 28, interfaith couples must now give two months’ notice to a district official before getting married. Currently, under the Special Marriages Act, 1954, that governs interfaith marriages in India, couples must give a notice of 30 days.

The new law has criminal aspects, too, including a jail term of up to ten years if convicted of using marriage to force a spouse to change their faith. Parents, siblings and “any relatives” by marriage and adoption can complain against a conversion. Such marriages can also be nullified. The burden of proof lies on the persons converting, or those counselling the persons to convert, to prove the conversion isn’t forced.

Women’s rights advocates are pointing out this amounts to curtailment of the right to choose one’s partner by the state.

Under the Bhartiya Janata Party, also the ruling party at the federal level, eight of 29 states of India now have anti-conversion laws, including these interfaith marriage clauses. These laws seek to regulate religious conversions through “forcible or fraudulent means”, or through “allurement” or “inducement”. In practice, they restrain the citizens’ constitutional right to convert.

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