Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2021, has been passed in Gujarat Assembly. After this, Gujarat becomes the third state to make a law against “love jihad”. The Bill penalises religious conversion for marriage by coercion, allurement or any other fraudulent means. It has a provision of jail term from between 3-10 years and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh if the accused is found guilty.
The objective of the Bill is to curb inter-faith marriages with the aim of religious conversion. The Bill amends The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003. According to the State’s Home Minister, this Bill will stop people specifically Muslim men from luring Hindu girls into marriage with the sole purpose of religious conversion. This Bill is said to refrain from the Islamist project which has the object to convert Hindu women to Islam and increase the Muslim population in the country generally referred to as love jihad.
Problems with the Bill
It infringes the right to privacy. In the Bill, the couple who wishes to marry has to first go to the Magistrate’s office and fill up a form containing personal details, which will be posted on the notice board for 21 days. That form will contain information such as an address, age, name, etc., and all this information will be under public scrutiny for 21 days. Even after the completion of 21 days, it depends upon the Magistrate of the district to give permission or not. The present system of law gives too much power to the magistrate, which brings us to the second problem. If anyone raises the concern with couple’s marriage then, the burden of proof is on the couple to prove that they are marrying on their free will and not under influence. Though, in general, the burden of proof is on the person who raises the concern, this makes it difficult for couples to marry.
There is no data produced by the state government on harm from inter-faith marriages. Though many politicians have said it is bad for society and terrorists are involved, there is no data to back these claims. Another problem with the law is that it treats women as property. The law assumes that women are not capable of making decisions, and they are property to be recovered and protected. This law violates the right to life, liberty and dignity.
Is there a Need for Such Laws?
The law lays down a procedure to ensure that any conversion from one to another religion is done merely with free consent and for preventing conversions by unfair means. The law would apply to all religions equally. But such offences can be prevented from already existing laws, and the fundamental rights or the existing laws should be amended. The law makes inter-faith marriages more difficult and gives too much power to family and relatives.
Libertatem.in is now on Telegram. Follow us for regular legal updates and judgments from the court. Follow us on Google News, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter. You can also subscribe to our Weekly Email Updates. You can also contribute stories like this and help us spread awareness for a better society. Submit Your Post Now.