The All India Lawyers' Association for Justice, a national lawyers' collective, on Wednesday condemned the announcements made by BJP-ruled states to pass a law against 'love jihad'.
The association called it a pejorative and communal term for inter-religious marriages, which has no basis in fact or law. There is no term called 'love jihad' in Indian law. It is propagated by right-wing extremists who claim that Muslim men deliberately marry Hindu women to convert them to Islam,
"AILAJ believes that every person has the right to marry or not, and to select their partners as per their will and desire. It is demanded that the Governments, instead of pursuing a communal agenda that penalizes those who exercise their constitutional freedoms, take immediate steps to enact a law that would specifically cover the field of so-called 'honour' crimes," the association said in a statement to the press.
Recently, the Madhya Pradesh government followed the Uttar Pradesh government in announcing a new law to curb the increase in cases of “love-jihad” in the state. The Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also mentioned in a press meet in Mangaluru that the BJP government will put an end to religion-based conversion after marriage.
"The proposed law is also problematic because the structures of caste and religion are kept in place by the structure of arranged marriage. In fact when young people exercise their right to love across lines of caste, religion and gender, they are doing so at enormous personal risk and in the process disrupting existing lines of social authority. Thus, the right to love is not just about personal autonomy but about challenging rigid social structures. By doing so lovers open out space in existing culture for all of us," said the association in its statement.
It called for state governments to protect the democratic right of individuals to marry outside their caste and religion. "Such statements are steeped in patriarchal, paternalistic notions, where women need to be "saved" from "predatory" men, thus denying the agency and the autonomy of the woman, which is yet another mode for controlling women," the statement further said.
It also raised court judgements which upheld Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and an individual's right to marry a person's of one's choice.