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regular-article-logo Sunday, 26 May 2024

No love allowed: Editorial on Gujarat government's intention to kill love marriages

The proposal to make parental consent mandatory in love marriages is a vote-winning gimmick for the Patidars, who have been most vocal about ‘their’ girls marrying outside the community

The Editorial Board Published 06.08.23, 09:32 AM

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The absurd and the sinister are two sides of the same coin. Whether or not this is learnt in the classroom, it is certainly the new lesson of New India. The Gujarat government is pondering the possibility of making parental consent mandatory in love marriages. The chief minister, Bhupendra Patel, mentioned this recently, with the condition that such a system could be introduced only if it were in accordance with the Constitution. It is expected that a chief minister would be acquainted with this text. Yet Mr Patel had no qualms about proposing a system that would directly contravene Article 14 of the Constitution, invade the privacy of two consenting adults, thus going against the Supreme Court’s ruling that privacy was a fundamental right, and make nonsense of a woman’s hard-fought autonomy which, too, is assumed by the Constitution. The chief minister’s suggestion may seem absurd, but its implications are sinister. One, parental approval would be used to bar interfaith and inter-caste marriages. Two, it is the women who will be coerced.

The proposal could have been seen purely as a vote-winning gimmick for it was announced at a meeting of the Patidars, who have been most vocal about ‘their’ girls marrying outside the community. One concern is certainly about women’s inherited property; it passes into non-Patidar hands — worse, into the hands of minority groups or criminals. This is where the mythical love jihad comes in and explains the amendments to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act which penalise conversion by force or fraud through marriage. Some provisions of the law are still awaiting hearing in the Supreme Court. But the proposal for parental consent — it would require a change in Marriage Registration Rules — was probably prompted by deeper regressive impulses than just a desire for votes. Control women, chain them down. A Bharatiya Janata Party legislator and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader declared that love marriages contributed to the state’s crime rate; banning marriages conducted without parental approval would reduce it by 50 per cent. That is, love marriages are criminal. This crudeness is shared, ironically enough, by the Congress legislators who are as vocal as the Patidars in demanding parental approval. One of them is a Thakor, a community that is directly asking for control of its women. In a recent meeting, the Thakors decided to ban mobile phone usage by unmarried girls in order to stop them from falling in love.

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As is usual in these cases, cultural, social and political violence against women is being disguised as ‘protection’ for them. Besides, the intention to kill love marriages is an act of hatred. But there are two allied questions here. Would a BJP state government propose such a return to darkness without being assured of silent assent of the Centre? So, is the latter allowing a bit of toe-dipping? But the slide must be stopped immediately, for it spells danger to civilisation itself.

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