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Right To Marry For Interfaith Couples: Still A Myth? An Analysis Of Honour Related Crimes In India

"The three most important events of human life are equally devoid of reason: birth, marriage, and death"-- Austin O'Malley

Marriage is a social institution that brings two people together. Marriage connects two people together; when this connection is established by their family in accordance with the community's rules and norms, it is considered a sacred alliance. However, when these two people who must spend their entire lives together choose to love and be with each other out of their own free will, they must face society's disapproval, which can take a dangerous form that leads to honor-related violence. Honor killings are based on the notion that women are just the property of their male family members, and they do not even have a basic right to choose their life partners.

In India, there's been a tremendous rise of 792% in Honour Killings in the year 2015, as data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau.[1] And laws like U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 are not helping any better, which invalidates conversions performed merely for the purpose of marriage; this is simply adding to an already chaotic situation.

This study attempts to comprehend the causes of animosity and killings in the name of honor for interreligious marriages and analyze how the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020, seeks to suppress the individual's right to marry and whether it is constitutional.

Statement of problem:
  1. Right to marry for inter-religious couples: not more than a delusion in India
    1. Social factors leading to detest of inter-religious couples in India:
      The first and foremost infringement on interreligious couples' right to marry is a patriarchal mentality. Women and men had equal rights to choose a life partner in the Vedic era, but as time passed, this norm deteriorated, and in modern times, marriage has devolved into a contract with no say for women.[2]

      So, when they dare to choose whom they want to marry, society reacts with resentment, especially when they are from different religions. And marring a person against the rules and norms of their community is seen as a question of the social standing of her male family members. There are various other social factors, like lack of education and fear of society, which lead to detesting inter-religious couples.
    2. Arbitrary Procedures under the Special Marriage Act, 1954
      The Special Marriage Act was passed in 1954 to help interreligious couples or people who just want to have a secular marriage. Couples must give a 30-day notice to the marriage officer, which was done for the sake of transparency and to allow people with real issues to speak up. But there have been far many instances where these couples were harassed by police and their families, and their personal details are being misused on social media to show the case of 'love- jihad.
    3. Increasing cases of honor killings of inter-religious couples
      Women in India's patriarchal society are treated as property and the responsibility of the honor of the family. And any conduct that can tarnish the family's reputation gives the family the complete right to kill the girl and restore the honor. The incidents of honor killings are increasing in the State of U.P. As per NCRB data, Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest number of murders, 4732, followed by Bihar 3178, Maharashtra 2509, and West Bengal 2096.[3]
  2. Plight of the U.P. prohibition of unlawful religious conversion ordinance (hereby referred as U.P. ordinance):
    1. Constitutionality of the ordinance:
      The present ordinance raises constitutional concerns, as the promulgation of an ordinance necessitates immediate action The ordinance was enacted in 2020 while the U.P. legislature was not in session but was there a need for immediate action?
    2. In violation of judicial precedents:
      The hon'ble supreme court in various cases like Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India & Ors[4] and Lata Singh v. the State of U.P.[5] has protected the rights of interfaith couples to convert their religion. But the present U.P. ordinance violates these precedents by invalidating religious conversions performed merely for the purpose of marriage.
  3. Relevance of the theme in present times
    This theme can be an effort to understand how the right to marry is still a far-fetched dream after decades of independence. And anti-conversion laws like the U.P. ordinance are evidence of the fact that interfaith marriages are still digested upon in modern times.

    Marriage is a crucial part of a society's framework that connects people together. Most people have arranged marriages for them by their parents from ancient times to bring two people and their families together. This practice has been prevalent in the past, and it continues to remain so in present times.

    According to the Indian Human Development Survey (IMDS), which was conducted in 2004-2005 and 2011-2012 by the University of Maryland and the National Council of Applied Economic Research. In India, only 4.99% of women had complete control over who they married.[6]According to the Lok Foundation-Oxford University polls, administered by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), examined by data journalist Rukmini, 93% of respondents had arranged marriages which is similar to the 94% of the generation aged 80 to 90. [7]

    These data indicate that the situation is not different from the past and patriarchy is still prevalent, and women in modern times have not gotten the absolute right to choose the life partner of their choice.

    A glimpse of hatred towards interfaith couples into contemporary Indian cinema
    Cinema is just a mirror of society. Indian cinema has various movies, documentaries, and ads showcasing the violence associated with interfaith couples. These are only a few examples of the society in which we live. As a result, we can trace the resentment of interfaith couples in society through films and literature from various eras.

    In movies like 'Raanjhna(2013)', 'Kedarnath(2018)', 'Anwar(2007)' and 'Ishaqzaade 2012', we can see how badly society reacts when two people of different religions come together. And any film before being released that dare to depict two people from different religion in love must walk carefully and account for protests and court cases which shows society's attitude towards these movies.

    Even in the past few years, there has been hatred and objections even towards ads that show interfaith couples. In a recent example of a famous jewel giant, 'Tanishq' where the takedown of an ad depicting an interfaith marriage due to social media pressure also the apology by their Gujrat stores shows that some marriages are still forbidden in modern India.

    In light of these circumstances, the U.P. ordinance is going to make the situation worse as it requires the couples first to give notices; this gives the police unrestricted powers that could be abused.
  4. Review of literature
    1. Review of literature on the right to marry for interreligious couples: not more than a delusion in India:
      • This review of literature depicts how patriarchy leads to resentment of interfaith couples in society which eventually results in honor-related crimes in India. One of the causes of honour crimes is women's changing economic and social position, as well as women acting against the patriarchal culture.[8]

        The greatest threat to this honor is the woman, her body, and her behavior as a result of her ability to reproduce and procreate.[9] Honour is thought to be a female-related commodity, with the patriarchal authority to guarantee that she does not endanger the fine balance at any cost.[10]

        Violation of community norms results in increased honor related crimes among interreligious couples, especially on women, since it is seen as a blatant attack on patriarchal power that must be controlled.[11]

        In Lata Singh v. State of U.P.[12] the court held that "This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter- religious marriage."

        Honor crimes violate Articles 14, 15, 19,21 and 39 of the Indian constitution. The Law Commission of India suggested a Suggested Legal Framework for a bill entitled "Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the Name of Honour and Tradition)" in its Report No.242 of 2012[13].

        According to the 2018 Law Commission study, the initial goal of providing 30-day notice may have been to ensure openness. However, the research claims that online access to such notices, as well as overzealous registrars informing parents about the pair, have "defeated the goal" of the Act, leaving couples with the option of a runaway temple marriage or conversion. Not every marriage is accepted by society, but it does not make it wrong. Extra-constitutional khap panchayats prohibit marriages between members of the same gotra, leading to so-called "honor" killings and social boycotts.[14]
      • In Kerala, the details of an interfaith couple, a Hindu woman and a Muslim man, who married under the SMA, were widely circulated on social media as proof of "love jihad." Despite the fact that the couple had previously been married when the social media "reveal" went viral, their personal information was available for anybody to download on a public domain website. it turned out; vigilante organisations had released the personal information of up to 120 interfaith couples on social media.[15]
  5. Review of literature on plight of the U.P. ordinance:
    • As held by the SC in various cases like RC Cooper v. Union of India[16], DC Wadhwa v. State of Bihar[17] and Krishna Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar[18] that the President's decision to issue an ordinance might be overruled since "immediate action" was not needed and it was enacted in order to avoid discussion in the legislature. The author contends that the same principle can also be applied in case of a 'Governor'[19].

      The present ordinance was promogulated when state legislature was not in session and there was not any immediate need to bring out this ordinance as there were no reports of excessive religious conversions or mass conversions in the state. In fact, critics contend that interfaith weddings constitute only 2% of all marriages in India[20], which is insignificant enough to damage public order.
    • In the benchmark the Hadiya case (Shafin Jahan v. Ashokan K.M.[21]) and in Lata Singh vs State of U.P. & Another[22] the SC held that right to marry of own choice is an essential part of right to life under article 21 of the constitution. Moreover, in Shakti Vahini vs. Union of India & Ors[23] right to life partner of own choice was held to be fundamental right.

      The author argues that even after the benchmark Hadiya case and cases like, the SC must assure parents and society while confronting couples and why religion should be a hindrance while choosing a life partner for oneself. And the author further states that the U.P. ordinance is an effort to stop secularism and curb personal liberty. [24]

The literature on the issue of right to marry of inter-religious couples showed the patriarchal mentality behind the resentment of interfaith couples which eventually leads into honor-related crimes in India. The literature based on the empirical study of the misuse of SME represents how special marriage act which was enacted to protect interfaith couples is actually being misused by some extremist groups also to be harassed by Police.

Honor killing, which is more of a cultural than a religious tradition, is accepted in secret by society but openly opposed and outlawed anywhere else. In many ways, changing the legislation is really a mere remedy. In India, there are already a number of laws and other systems in place to safeguard against honor crimes. The issue is Existing laws are rarely enforced. For the honor crime to be eradicated, a cultural shift is required. In some parts of India, conservatism still reigns supreme. To make a difference in this domain, a paradigm shift in how men and women interact is required.

The Literature on the subject of plight of the U.P. ordinance depicts how the aforementioned ordinance does not meet the legal requirements. And in violation of various judgments given by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. Where the Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of interfaith marriages, saying, "society must learn to accept inter-caste and inter-faith marriages without hounding the couples"[25]. The U.P. ordinance not only contains the elements of invalidating interfaith marriages but also places unreasonable obstacles in the way of consenting adults exercising their right to life and liberty.

Research Objectives/Questions/Hypothesis
  1. To find out the social factors which cause resentment towards interfaith marriages
  2. To examine the scopes of mis usage and negative impact of the special marriage act 1954.
  3. To find out the causes which leads to honour-related crimes in India.
  4. To examine the constitutionality of the U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020.
  5. To find out the whether the U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 is in violation of several judicial precedents.
  1. Why society detest interreligious marriages and look down upon women who choose to love out of their religion?
  2. What are the causes that lead to increasing of honour killings of interreligious couples in India?
  3. Was there any need to promogulate the U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020?
  4. Was the U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 in violation of various judgments given by Hon'ble Supreme Court?
  1. Patriarchy and other social factors lead to resentment of interfaith couples which eventually result into honour related violence in India.
  2. The U.P Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020 does not follow the judicial precedents set by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India.

This literature is based on empirical methodology. This study was created after conducting extensive research in every possible area and examining many court decisions and recent modifications. Secondary sources were used to gather data for this study. Data was collected by:
  1. Books
  2. Bare acts
  3. Journals
  4. Articles
  1. Crime in India (2015). Retrieved December 16, 2021
  2. Naorem, and Kambhampati Subrahmanyam. "Women in the Rig Vedic age." International Journal of Yoga - Philosophy, Psychology and Parapsychology, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan.-June 2014, p. 1. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 24 Dec. 2021.
  3. 8th report of state law commission on freedom of religion.
  4. 2018 (5) SCALE 51
  5. (2011) 6 SCC 405
  8. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention ISSN (Online): 2319 � 7722, ISSN (Print): 2319 � 7714 ||Volume 6 Issue 6||June. 2017 || PP.49-53
  9. (Chowdhary, 2007, pp. 16-17)
  10. Nabar, V. (1995). Caste as Woman. New Delhi: Penguin Books.
  11. Chowdhary, P. (2007). Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples: Gender, Caste and Patriarchy in Northern India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press at10-11
  12. (2011) 6 SCC 405
  13. Supra no. 4 at 26
  16. AIR 1970 SC 564
  17. 1987 AIR 579
  18. 2017 (2) SCJ 136
  19. 9 Madan B. Lokur, "An ill-conceived, overbroad and vague ordinance", The Hindu, Jan. 2, 2021, available at: (last visited on Dec 20, 2021)
  20. 5 Joanna Slater, "It was never easy being an interfaith couple in India. Now some states are making it harder.", The WashingtonPost, Nov.26, 2020, available at: (last visited on December 20, 2021)
  21. AIR2018SC1933
  22. (2011) 6 SCC 405
  23. 2018 (5) SCALE 51
  24. Juris Prudentia: An Anthology on human rights, law and society in India by Khushi Paliwal.
  25. Utkarsh Anand, SC: Society must learn to accept inter-caste, interfaith marriages, HINDUSTAN TIMES (April 12, 2021), ith-marriages-101612809173318.html

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