How The Special Marriage Act Is Killing Love

The withdrawal under social media pressure of a Tanishq ad that depicts an interfaith marriage tells us that even in modern India some alliances continue to be out-of-bounds. Provisions in a law that enables secular marriage are, ironically, often a tool for harassment. My story with Surbhi Karwa for Article-14.

The Tanishq jewellery advertisement that depicted interfaith marriage was withdrawn after the company succumbed to a coordinated hate campaign on social media.

When she was in the fifth standard, the last of her four elder sisters got married, and her mother asked: “Who is going to help with the housework?” Amreen Malik never again went to school. While her mother worked in the fields, it was the job of the 12-year-old to cook, clean and care for the rest of her family, including three younger brothers.

“I was not allowed to go out or have friends,” she said.

Mohit Nagar’s father had a small medical store right across the road from Amreen’s house in the village of Kharauli in the western Uttar Pradesh district of Meerut. Elder to Amreen by four years, Mohit would often hang out at the store.

One day when she was around 15 or 16, she can’t remember when, he called on the landline at her house. She picked up. And so began a relationship by phone until his father found out and told Amreen’s father.

Life Through A Nariwadi Chashma

How a digital platform in Bundelkhand is telling the story of rural India through a feminist lens.

The Khabar Lahariya logo

At Hathras, a gaggle of media and OB vans has descended on the house gutted by tragedy. Reporting from the scene, Khabar Lahariya’s editor Kavita Bundelkhandi and reporter Meera Devi have clambered up onto the roof to take a look. What they see is swarms of police and a media melee where excitable reporters who’ve taken over the house, chatter, laugh, eat biscuits, and, every now and then, shriek into their mikes.

“The family is pleading that they have no strength to speak but the media has not stopped thrusting mikes into their faces,” reports Kavita. The bereaved and beleagured family has had no time to even cook and the children are hungry.

The women-led digital platform that today counts 30 reporters and stringers across 13 districts in Bundelkhand has for close to two decades, been chronicling a side of India that is rarely seen and seldom written about.

Despite the fact that 65.5% of our population lives in rural India, stories from the “hinterland” make up no more than 2% of all stories in the mainstream press, finds a recent report. When these stories are told, they tend to fall into two buckets: the sensational crime report or heart-rending agrarian distress. When you think of exceptions, website like PARI (People’s Archive of Rural India) come to mind, taking the trouble to also look for human interest stories of aspiration and hope.  

The Unacceptably High Price Of Love

Couples who wish to marry under the Special Marriage Act must serve a 30-day notice during which their personal details are on public display. This violates their privacy and leaves many vulnerable to parental and community reprisal.

Courtesy: The Indian Express

In October last year soon after ‘S’ informed the district magistrate’s office in Lucknow that she wanted to get married under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), she received an unexpected invitation at home: to visit the local police station.

The police met her, her partner and her father to conduct an ‘inquiry’. Why get married in court? Was the father ok with her decision? Fortunately for ‘S’, he was, even though the Act does not require parental permission, only consenting adults.

“In Uttar Pradesh it is routine to call couples and often their parents to the police station, particularly in cases of inter-religious marriages,” said Lucknow-based lawyer Renu Mishra.

Enacted in 1954, the SMA was for those who wished to marry outside their religion’s personal laws and customs, caste and, often, parental consent.