Friday, December 04, 2020

Indian State Places New Restrictions On Religious Conversion

On Nov. 27, the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh promulgated the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 (full text) (section-by-section explanation). It outlaws religious conversions entered solely for the purpose of marriage, as well as religious conversions by means of misrepresentations, force, coercion, undue influence, allurement or fraud. Violations are punishable by imprisonment of 1 to 5 years, and a fine of up to $200(US)-- with higher punishments where a minor, a woman or member of a Scheduled Caste are involved, or a mass conversion. 

The new law also sets out an elaborate procedure for anyone who wishes to change his or her religion. The procedure includes a 60-day advance notice to the District Magistrate, followed by a police investigation, and a post-conversion filing. The clergy planning to conduct a conversion must file a notice 30 days in advance. The Hindu reports on the new law.

Time reports on the "love jihad" conspiracy theory that has given impetus to laws such as this one:

Love Jihad is a baseless conspiracy theory that Muslim men are attempting to surreptitiously shift India’s demographic balance by converting Hindu women to Islam through marriage. The narrative has been pushed by Hindu nationalist groups close to India’s ruling BJP since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was first elected in 2014....

The new law comes just two weeks after judges in Uttar Pradesh’s high court overturned a previous decision that religious conversions for the sake of marriage are unacceptable....

The high court case referred to is Priyanshi @ Km. Shamren and others v. State of U.P. and Another, (Allahabad High Court, Nov. 11, 2020). The court said in part:

Right to choose a partner irrespective of caste, creed or religion, is inhered under right to life and personal liberty, an integral part of the Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.