Personal freedom and the panel on Intercaste/Interfaith Marriages
Why in News?
- Following a report in this newspaper, the Maharashtra government has decided to limit the mandate of the recently constituted Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee (state level) to gathering information on interfaith marriages.
Intercaste/Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee:
- Work under Women and child development: The renamed Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee will be under the state Women and Child Development Ministry.
- Will Track frauds: The committee besides providing support and rehabilitation, when necessary, ostensibly track fraud committed in the name of love jihad.
- Development come after walker case: The development came after the Shraddha Walkar case came to light in November. Walkar, 26, was murdered by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawalla in May, 2022
- Other states with anti-conversion legislation: With states such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand already having brought in anti-conversion legislation.
What is love jihad?
- “Love jihad” is a term often used by activists to allege a ploy by Muslim men to lure Hindu women into religious conversion through marriage.
How the initiative will work?
- Will collect and keep details of interfaith marriages and ensure communication: This initiative will provide a platform for the women in intercaste/interfaith marriages and their families to access counselling, and communicate or resolve issues.
- Committee will hold regular meetings: The committee has been assigned to hold meetings with district officials, and review work on seven parameters, including, gathering information about interfaith or inter-caste marriages from stamp duty and registrar offices, and collect information on such registered or unregistered marriages, among others.
What are the concerns raised?
- Control over the lives of individual citizens: Such vigilance remains yet another indication of the State’s disproportionately burgeoning and utterly unacceptable interest in, and demand for, control over the lives of individual citizens.
- Denial of women’s own choice: It is not just violative of one’s rights of freedom and equality, it also reeks of misogyny in its steadfast denial of a woman’s choice of partner as her own free will and not an act of coercion.
- Committee can be armed: There is the IPC for all genuine complaints so the committee could be weaponised.
- It will limit the freedoms of men and women: In every aspect, monitoring of a citizen’s life for her own supposed benefit is a cautionary tale, a limitation of the freedoms of men and women, designed to deter them from leading fuller, freer lives.
Basics: Right to Marriage:
- Comes under Right to life: The right to marry is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- As an integral part of Right to Life: Various courts across the country have also interpreted the right to marry as an integral part of the right to life under Article 21.
- Stated under Human rights Charter: The right to marriage is also stated under Human Rights Charter within the meaning of the right to start a family.
- Universal right: The right to marry is a universal right and it is available to everyone irrespective of their gender.
- Forced marriage is illegal: A forced marriage is illegal in different personal laws on marriage in India, with the right to marry recognized under the Hindu laws as well as Muslim laws.
How is religious freedom protected under the Constitution?
- Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
- It is a right that guarantees a negative liberty which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercise this freedom.
- However, like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.
- The marriage between politics and communalism is not a new phenomenon but to try to inhibit that idea of openness and possibility by casting communal aspersions on personal choice might be a travesty. There needs an innovative and inclusive approach to address the issues arise out of interfaith marriages.