Currently, marriage laws between India's majority Hindu population and minority Muslims are being drafted in five states
, all of which are led by the right-wing, Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
All of them seek to ban something that doesn't actually exist: "love jihad," an Islamophobic term referring to a purported phenomenon in which Muslim men marry women of other faiths — especially Hindu women — to convert them to Islam. Some right-wing Hindus claim that this alleged "conversion" results in a threat to women's safety, citing tragedies
like the reported murder of a Hindu woman last month by a young Muslim man as proof of "love jihad." (In addition to murder, authorities have charged the young man with attempting to abduct the young woman to seek to compel her to marry him, The Indian Express reported
; they noted he abducted her once before, in 2018.)
In Uttar Pradesh, authorities have just brought charges under one of these laws for the first time, accusing a male college student of threatening to kidnap a young woman and of trying to force her to convert to Islam, The Times of India reports
. Despite this case, as the push for these new laws unfolded, the Hindu-nationalist BJP had admitted in Parliament
that no case of "love jihad" had ever been identified.
As troubling as it is that an ethnonationalist conspiracy theory seems to have taken hold, the motivation behind it also ignores women as individuals, painting them as naive and incapable of thinking for themselves or making their own decisions.
Since its independence, India has seen religious animosity between its Hindu and Muslim communities. Starting with its partition from Pakistan, an Islamic republic, however, India has maintained, constitutionally, that it is a secular democracy. The topic of "love jihad" was revived in the national conversation on Oct. 9 after Tanishq
, a jewelry company, was accused of "glorifying" Hindu-Muslim marriages, and subsequently "love jihad," in an ad. The ad was heavily trolled on social media, with right-wing Hindu fundamentalists promising to "boycott" the company
. Eventually, the company pulled
the ad, saying it feared for the "well being" of its employees.
Since then, BJP state leaders have chimed in, proposing laws that would ban the practice of "love jihad," mandating government permission for recent religious converts to marry.
The government will "work to curb 'love-jihad,'" said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, on Oct. 31
, adding, "We'll make a law." BJP politicians in the states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka
followed suit, pushing similar proposals.
On Nov. 24
, the Uttar Pradesh government cleared an ordinance to check "unlawful conversions," saying that, in "cases of forced mass conversions," it would enforce a jai