A group of “adult women” has come together in opposition to the recently instituted controversial ‘love jihad’ law, stating that it is being implemented in “violation” of Indian citizens’ human rights. In a letter addressed to the National Human Rights Commission, several women (and men) have claimed that the anti-conversion law – most notably passed in Uttar Pradesh recently as the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 – is “discriminatory and patriarchal,” and is a “brazen clampdown on the fundamental rights of the women of this country.” Signatories reportedly include notable personalities like Konkona Sensharma, Sayema Rahman, Sushant Singh, journalists Priya Ramani, Namita Bhandare and Swagata Yadavar.
The complaint was initiated by two Delhi-based women – a lawyer named Mani Chander, and writer Kaustubh Chandra – under Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. A press release for the same states that the signatories are seeking an “intervention” by NHRC on UP’s ‘love jihad’ law and “the many concerning reports of human rights violations related to this law.”
It emphasises that this law, which “supposedly seeks to stop the religious conversion of one person by another” by use of fraud, is reducing “women to naïve repositories of male honour” and limiting their “fundamental rights of faith, liberty.”
Press Release pic.twitter.com/uaxCMOJX53
— Dushyant (@atti_cus) December 16, 2020
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Is ‘Love Jihad’ Law Encroaching Upon Women’s Agency?
The ‘love jihad’ law since its inception has been shrouded in much controversy, since its entire premise is highly debatable. It alleges a conspiracy by people of the Islamic faith to forcefully induct Hindu women into their religion. However, due research has not determined the existence of any such conspiracy, leading several to claim that the ‘love jihad’ law is only a tool for “fear-mongering” and “communalisation.”
Talking to SheThePeople, Supreme Court advocate Farah Faiz, who is the President of Rashtriya Muslim Mahila Sangh, says love jihad is not a religious or political issue, it is a woman-centric issue. However, she adds, “We live in a country where there are laws in place to protect inter-faith couples, such as the Special Marriage Act. You can marry under that act without having to change your religion.”
With Yogi Adityanath passing the ordinance in UP, and several other states like Assam, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh considering a law along similar lines, experts have raised doubts over the law’s encroachment upon the personal agencies of women. News reports from UP suggest that authorities have used the ordinance to halt a number of “consensual” interfaith marriages.
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On December 2, police in Lucknow reportedly stopped a Hindu-Muslim wedding, even as it was taking place with the consent of the couple and their respective families. In another incident, it was reported on December 12 that a Hindu woman suffered a miscarriage in custody while her Muslim husband was imprisoned for allegedly coercing her into conversion. The letter to the NHRC makes mention of these and other incidents.
The signatories claim, “The assumption that adult women who choose and consent to marry someone from another faith need to be ‘saved’ goes against the very spirit of the Constitution, which begins with the words ‘we the people of India’ and not ‘we the men of India’.”
What Is The Letter Demanding?
The letter seeks to bring the NHRC’s urgent attention to the ‘love jihad’ law and intervene as it is “patently susceptible to misuse.” It urges the Commission to issue a notice to the UP Police, asking for a “detailed report” on cases registered under the ordinance so far, and also take suo moto cognisance of those who have been booked under it.
The signatories also demand for interfaith couples wishing to marry to be provided police protection to avoid any “undue harassment.” Also suggested is due research to “formulate exhaustive guidelines for the protection of fundamental rights in order to curb misuse of the law.”
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While Sensharma retweeted the letter, other signatories like Singh and Yadavar posted the following tweets:
I have signed. I don’t know if it’ll make a difference, but it’s better than doing nothing.
Join the fight against 'Love Jihad' Law by signing this letter to the National Human Rights Commission https://t.co/tSlAXRczZg
— सुशांत सिंह sushant singh سشانت سنگھ (@sushant_says) December 14, 2020
I would urge all the women I know to sign this letter against the 'love jihad law that takes away fundamental rights from women. We are not weak, naive or stupid, we have rights over our own lives.. https://t.co/po2qwJ3Lop
— swagata yadavar (@swagata_y) December 15, 2020