By Dr Dilip Amin–
(The views presented in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily of indica)
India has complex marriage and divorce laws. It is even worse for couples undergoing interfaith marriages. Youths in relationships undergo many difficulties, including fake religious conversion, to fulfil requirements of Indian marriage laws. Uniform civil laws, like in the West, should be implemented in India to fulfil needs of the future generation of Indians.
Western Marriage Laws
In the West, there are simple uniform rules to get registered with an appropriate authority when a couple gets married. The same way, there are clear uniform rules that apply when the couple gets divorced.
No religious community in the West has expressed major concerns with such uniform laws. If it works for people of all faiths in the West, why not adapt the same uniformity for India?
Indian Complex Laws
India has complex rules and many apply only to certain religious communities, meaning these are segregated laws.
For example, India has Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, designed for Hindus. Indian Jain, Sikh and Buddhist communities have to register their marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act, even though they are different religions. Sikh couples may be able to get their marriages registered under the Anand Marriage 1909 Act (amended in 2012).
Muslims have their specific marriage personal laws, Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. Parsees follow Parsee Marriage and Divorce Act 1936. Christians follow Christian Marriage Act 1872.
There is also a secular law, the Special Marriage Act 1954, where any two individuals, irrespective of their faith, can marry under this act. However, there are complexities too, as described later.
These laws are just too confusing for youths who are getting married.
Marriage with Nikah means the Muslim husband is legally allowed to have up to four wives. Further, there are different laws favoring male for inheritance as well as during the talaq.
Probably no woman wants to share her husband with three other women. Before continuing this practice, the Indian government should ask Indian women’s views on this practice.
Someone may be of concern that Muslims will lose out on having four wives in the new law. In the author’s personal experience, after talking to 1200 youths in interfaith relationships and over the past 18 years, is that all Muslim youths plan to have only one wife. As a matter of fact, they said that they do not know anyone in their family having more than one wife. They explained to the author that the justification of having four wives was to support widows during wars in the early 6th century during prophet Muhammad’s time; that justification is no longer valid in the year 2023.
Add to above complexities, now more and more Indians are getting married interfaith. When a Hindu-Muslim couple wishes to get married, they cannot apply under the Hindu Marriage Act because the Muslim will have to convert to Hinduism. In that case the Muslim community will complain that the Hindu party is fascist and brainwashing the Muslim youth.
If they marry by the Muslim marriage Act, the Hindu party will have to convert for the Nikah. In such a case, people will say that it is a case of love-jihad.
If they marry by the Special Marriage Act, both sets of their parents will be unhappy. Further, the act says, marriage of any member of an undivided family belonging to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion, solemnized under this act can be deemed to affect his/her severance from the family. It means the couple may lose out on inheritance.
Complexities will be the same if one of them is a Christian or Parsi (Zoroastrians).
Multiple Wedding Rituals
When an interfaith couple decides to have multiple marriage rituals, for example the Special Marriage Act, followed by Hindu Vivah and Islamic Nikah or a Nikah and a Church marriage, they must register their marriage only under the first marriage that took place and any wedding ritual(s) performed after that doesn’t count, meaning it was a meaningless ritual(s) as far the law is concerned.
Pain and Suffering
Interfaith couples cannot comprehend the complexities of the segregated Indian marriage laws and thus they go through difficulties in getting married. Many are forced to fake-convert to fulfil the needs of Indian outdated laws.
The author has consulted many youths in love who go through intense pain and suffering, depression, suicidal ideologies and more, that is because of religious institutional practices and Indian government’s outdated laws.
Trying to accommodate all, India has carried forward laws as old as from 1872, from the days of the British Raj. Why not have laws that are from the new independent India and that will fulfil the needs of today’s youths?
There should be ‘separation of Church and the state’, why not the Indian government stay out of individual’s faith?
Why not make marriage and divorce laws that are secular, fulfilling the needs of this secular nation, India? The government should not look at the selfish objective of a select few religious fanatics.
One nation, one law, that is applicable to all. Consider Uniform Civil code.
This message is summarized in this video.
Dr. Dilip Amin is the founder of Interfaithshaadi.org and HinduSpeakers.org. Dr. Amin is Director of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition of the San Francisco Bay area and a certified speaker at Islamic Networks Group. He is a Dharma Ambassador and on the Advisory Committee at the Hindu American Foundation. He is a jail chaplain and a Columnist at Patheos. Dr. Amin has guided 1200 youth in interfaith relationships over the past 18 years and has summarized his experiences in three books. He has co-authored the book Hindu Vivaha Samskara. His other two books are: Interfaith Marriage-Share & Respect with Equality (Mount Meru) and Hindu-Muslim Shaadi-Samasyayen Aur Samadhan (Hindi, Garuda).