Why Are Interfaith Marriages Frowned Upon In India?

Even in most religious interpretations, love is said to be all-encompassing. So why are interfaith marriages frowned on upon?

Valentine’s Day is a cultural phenomenon of the cringe persuasion. Getting my initial aversion to this ostentatious celebration aside, I would like to acknowledge its need for human survival. Love is the foundation, the support network of people whom we live and die for.

Even in most religious interpretations, love is said to be all-encompassing. So why are interfaith marriages frowned on upon?

Marriage is for all and surpasses all bounds

The notion of marriage predates it legal interpretation of togetherness. Since time immemorial, people have sought each other out and decided to spend a part of their lives together. It surpasses the bounds of gender, class, community and religion.

There are individuals who prefer professional and spiritual help to seek a partner within their respective community. There are also individuals who decide to settle with someone from an entirely different background, choosing your partner is an entirely independent decision.

However, we see examples of intolerance to certain unions around us all the time.

Interfaith marriages, especially between Hindus and Muslims in India, have been a sensitive issue since historical times. We constantly see examples of established religious and political authorities, elders and self-proclaimed community spokespersons trying to intervene and discourage them.

Growing intolerance towards Interfaith marriages

In recent times, there has been an emergence of “anti-conversion” laws, where authorities demand that those who wish to convert, especially for the sake of interfaith marriage, must seek permission from the government to do so.

However, it is increasingly being used to disrupt marriages, even between partners giving full consent along with their families.

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It is interesting to note the compulsion for groups to control and influence the decisions of adults. Indian children, young and old, are often “guilted” on the basis of their elders’ decisions. Beyond a compulsion to protect, it is too often a tactic to control.

7 states so far have passed anti-conversion laws that ban religious conversion solely for the purpose of marriage. In Maharashtra, the government even formed a panel to investigate interfaith marriages and maintain a record of such couples.

Alongside, right-wing organizations launched a nationwide public “awareness campaign,” about “love jihad” and illegal religious conversions. This is done to “warn” Hindu women about the dangers of forced conversion and interfaith marriage.

This reads as textbook patriarchal control. Wherein, individuals, including grown adults, are seen as an extension of a patriarchal or nationalistic ideals by radicals and are forced to conform to it against their independent will.

Is Interfaith marriage wrong?

The wisdom of basic human connection and the freedom to choose one’s partner as well as religion is not wasted in the Indian legal context.

The Indian Constitution grants its people the freedom of religion and its practice. This month itself, the Supreme Court sought responses from the 7 states that have passed “anti-conversion” laws on the grounds that they violate fundamental rights of the persons involved.

It is important that such intrusive laws be stopped before they act as a gateway into legalized intolerance.

Regardless, we deal with parochialism in myriad ways every day. Amid heightened communal tensions in recent years, interfaith and inter-caste couples in India face bullying, harassment, opposition from relatives and even death threats.

In our own homes, we come across seemingly benign racist, communist and sexist remarks. There is also lots of internal criticism against couples that don’t follow the status quo. Such laws feed into the general discomfort of the public against interfaith marriages and weaponizes it.

Love is love

Love is a choice, in all its aspects. The same way I viciously rebuke love in the name of all things good, I believe every other person is also entitled to interpret love the way they want. LGBT, interfaith, intercaste unions are all equal and worthy of legal and social identification and acceptance.

India is going through the throes of self-destruction through climate change, lack of job opportunities, economic crisis and poverty, decisions adults make in terms of who they love is the least of our worries.

For Valentine’s, a love letter to the authorities would sound like “We leave the governance to you, leave love to us”

Image source: still from the Tanishq ad, that got taken down after backlash!

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About the Author

Ria Tirkey

I am Ria from New Delhi. I'm a student of political science and law and I have a lot to say apparently. read more...

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