Love follows no rules, no boundaries. Though society regulated the union of two people into the institution of marriage, love continues to break free of man-made rules. And interfaith marriages are exactly that—consenting adults deciding whom to love and live with. Such marriages should have been a matter of personal choice. But not always. There have been instances when marriages have been monopolised within communities through laws. One such example is South Africa’s Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949, when the imperialist regime came up with a novel concept to stop marriages between Europeans and non-Europeans—basically a law to keep whites and non-whites apart. The law, which had penal consequences, was repealed in 1985.
Cut forward to India 2020. Amid a political churning in the country, with the Hindu right wing asserting its right as the dominant tribe, many states are contemplating laws to stop what has been outrageously described as ‘love jihad’—an alleged plot to convert Hindu women to Islam through affection and/or coercion. The term ‘love jihad’ has no literary or statutory meaning but it seems to have gained appeal among a large section of the masses in India; that Muslim boys are untouchable when it comes to a Hindu woman exercising her constitutional right to choose a life partner. To give statutory basis to this fictitious concept there appears to be a competition within BJP-ruled states as to who will pass a legislation first. Uttar Pradesh has already brought in an ordinance to regulate religious conversion for marriage.