Multiple BJP-led states, over the past few weeks, have been mulling law against ‘Love Jihad’ with CM, Yogi Adtiyanath, leading from the front. And within days of the announcement of the need for such a law, an ordinance has finally been approved by the UP Assembly to make marriages null and void if an instance of forced conversion is found.
Love Jihad, for the unaware, a term used to describe the forced conversion of non-Muslim women to Islam by Muslim men.
What does the new law entail?
As per the new law, any instance of forced conversion, if found after investigation, would attract a penalty of five years in jail along with a fine of Rs 15,000. The law further adds that if a woman had converted to another faith solely for getting married and an individual files a complaint highlighting the same, an investigation into the marriage is mandated.
Post investigation, if evidence of forced conversion is found, the marriage would terminate. Mass conversion, as per the law, will attract a jail term of 10 years. Conversion, also, is regarded as a non-bailable offence.
In addition, the law awards a jail term of two and seven years and a fine of Rs 25,000 in cases where forced conversion involves minors and women belonging to ST and SC communities.
Also, as per the law, for all conversions, it will be made mandatory for the marrying participants to communicate their intent to a district magistrate. Failing to do so could lead to a jail term of anywhere between three months to three years.
While tabling the ordinance, the government said that the law nowhere seeks to stop interfaith marriages but only curb forced conversions, which women are often subjected to under the pretext of love.
Uttar Pradesh not first!!
To note is the fact that Uttar Pradesh is not the first state to bring such a law. Himachal Pradesh, back in 2007, had already enacted a law, which prohibited conversion from one religion to another by force or fraud.
In 2019, new provisions were added to the 2007 law. The amended law states that marriage done for the sole purpose of religious conversion may be declared null and void on a petition by either party in a court.
Also, offences under the Freedom to Religion Act are cognizable and non-bailable. The violator can be punished with a prison term ranging from one to five years, along with a fine.