What is anti-conversion law? What is the need for this law? What are the issues associated with anti-conversion laws? Read further to know more.
Anti-conversion laws passed in a number of states are being scrutinised because of their ambiguity and the absence of strong justifications for them.
The Indian constitution’s guarantee of fundamental rights is seriously threatened by the vague terms used in them.
People convert to a different religion for various reasons, including active conversion by free choice due to a change in beliefs, secondary conversion, deathbed conversion, conversion for convenience, marital conversion, and forced conversion.
Also read: The Places of Worship Act, 1991
What is anti-conversion law?
Anticonversion laws refer to laws that are designed to prevent or prohibit the conversion of one religion to another. These laws may be used to prevent individuals from leaving a particular religion or to prevent religious groups from proselytizing or recruiting members from other religious groups.
The specific provisions of anticonversion laws vary from place to place and may be enforced through criminal or civil penalties. In some cases, anticonversion laws are used to protect the dominant religion in a particular society or to suppress minority religions.
Some people believe that anticonversion laws violate the right to freedom of religion, which is protected by international human rights laws.
What is the need for anti-conversion law?
There are a variety of reasons why some people or organizations may advocate for anticonversion laws. Some people believe that these laws are necessary to protect the cultural and social cohesion of a particular community or society.
They may argue that conversion from one religion to another can create conflicts and divisions within a community and that anticonversion laws are needed to prevent such conflicts. Others may view anticonversion laws as a way to protect the traditions and beliefs of a particular religion and to prevent the erosion of its influence or power.
There are also some who argue that anticonversion laws are necessary to protect individuals from being coerced or deceived into converting to a different religion. They may claim that some religious groups use manipulative or unethical tactics to recruit members and that anticonversion laws are needed to prevent such abuse.
No Right to Evangelize: According to the Constitution, every person has the fundamental right to profess, practise, and spread their religion.
A collective right to proselytise cannot be derived from an individual’s freedom of conscience and religion. Because both the person seeking to be converted and the person who is converting have a right to religious freedom.
Fraudulent Marriages: In the recent past, there have been a number of instances where people have forced someone to convert to their own religion after they have been married to someone of a different religion by either lying about or hiding their own religion.
SC Observations: Recently, the Supreme Court also gave these occurrences judicial notice.
According to the court, such incidents not only violate the converted individuals’ right to freedom of religion but also work to undermine the secular foundation of our society.
It’s important to note that many people disagree with the need for anticonversion laws, and believe that the right to freedom of religion should be protected at all times. They argue that individuals should be free to choose their own religion without interference or coercion and that anticonversion laws can be used to suppress minority religions and undermine the right to freedom of religion.
What is the status of the anti-conversion law in India?
There are several anticonversion laws in India that regulate the conversion of one religion to another. These laws vary from state to state, and the specific provisions of the laws can differ significantly.
Constitutional Provision: Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom to practise, profess, and propagate any religion. It also grants all religious groups the right to control their own religious affairs, subject to public morality, health, and order.
Existing Laws: Religious conversions have not been subject to any national restrictions or regulations. Private Member Bills to control religious conversions, however, have repeatedly been introduced in the Parliament since 1954 (but never passed by it).
Additionally, the Union Law Ministry stated in 2015 that Parliament lacks the legislative authority to enact legislation prohibiting conversion. Several states have passed “Freedom of Religion” laws over the years to prohibit forced, fraudulent, or coerced conversions to another religion.
In general, however, anticonversion laws in India require that individuals seeking to convert to another religion must obtain permission from the government before doing so. Some states have more stringent anticonversion laws than others, and some states have provisions that specifically target certain religious groups or activities.
In recent years, there has been significant controversy and debate over the use of anticonversion laws in India. Some people argue that these laws are necessary to protect the cultural and social cohesion of the country, while others believe that they are used to suppress minority religions and violate the right to freedom of religion.
The Supreme Court of India has ruled that anticonversion laws are constitutional as long as they are not used to interfere with an individual’s right to freedom of religion. However, there have been cases in which these laws have been used to target and persecute minority religious groups.
What are the issues associated with anti-conversion laws?
There are several issues associated with anticonversion laws that have been the subject of debate and controversy. Some of the main issues include:
- Freedom of religion: Anticonversion laws can be seen as a violation of the right to freedom of religion, which is protected by international human rights laws. These laws can restrict an individual’s ability to choose their own religion and can be used to suppress minority religions.
- Discrimination: Anticonversion laws can be used to discriminate against certain religious groups, particularly minority religions. In some cases, these laws have been used to target and persecute minority religious groups.
- Coercion and manipulation: Some people argue that anticonversion laws are necessary to prevent coercion and manipulation in religious conversion. However, others believe that these laws are often used as a pretext to suppress minority religions and restrict the right to freedom of religion.
- Social and cultural divisions: Anticonversion laws can contribute to social and cultural divisions within a community or society, particularly if they are used to protect the dominant religion.
- Conflict with other laws: Anticonversion laws can sometimes conflict with other laws, such as laws that protect freedom of expression or the right to freedom of association.
- Effectiveness: There is debate over the effectiveness of anticonversion laws in achieving their intended goals. Some people argue that these laws are not effective in preventing religious conversion, while others believe that they are necessary to protect the cultural and social cohesion of a community or society.
What are Supreme Court Judgements on Marriage and Conversion?
There have been several judgments by the Supreme Court of India on marriage and conversion. Here are a few examples:
- In the case of Hadiya vs. Ashokan K.M., the Supreme Court ruled that an adult has the right to marry and convert to another religion of their choice. The court also stated that the state does not have the right to interfere with an individual’s freedom to marry and convert.
- In the case of Lata Singh vs. the State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court held that an individual has the right to marry someone of their choice, regardless of their religion, caste, or social status. The court also stated that any interference with this right by the state or any other party is a violation of the right to freedom of choice.
- In the case of Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that a person can convert to another religion for the purpose of marriage, but that such a conversion should not be used as a pretext for avoiding legal obligations or responsibilities. The court also stated that any conversion solely for the purpose of marriage is void and cannot be used as a defence in any legal proceedings.
- In the case of S. Pushpabai vs. C.T. Selvaraj, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual has the right to convert to another religion, but that such a conversion should be genuine and voluntary. The court also stated that any coercion or misrepresentation in connection with a religious conversion is a violation of the right to freedom of religion.
It’s important to note that these are just a few examples of Supreme Court judgments on marriage and conversion. There have been many other cases that have dealt with these issues, and the specific provisions of these judgments may vary.
It is a complex issue with multiple perspectives on the matter, however here are a few ways in which the current situation with the anticonversion laws in India could be addressed moving forward:
- Reviewing the existing laws: The current anticonversion laws in India should be reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with international human rights standards and the Indian Constitution. This review should be carried out by experts in the field of human rights and religious freedom and should take into account the views and concerns of all relevant stakeholders.
- Limiting the scope of the laws: The scope of anticonversion laws should be limited to prohibit only forced or fraudulent conversions while allowing genuine and voluntary conversions. This would help to ensure that the laws are not used to violate the right to freedom of religion or to discriminate against certain religious groups.
- Increase the transparency and accountability in implementation: There should be more transparency and accountability in the implementation of anticonversion laws, with clear guidelines and procedures in place for granting and denying permission for conversions, and for investigating and prosecuting alleged violations of the law. This would help to prevent arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement of the laws.
- Prioritize dialogue and education: There should be more efforts made to promote dialogue and understanding between different religious groups, with a focus on education and awareness-raising about different religions. This could help to reduce tensions and conflicts between religious groups and promote greater respect for diversity and freedom of religion.
- Monitoring and Reporting: To ensure that the laws are not being misused, there should be an independent body which will monitor the law’s implementation and take complaints, to ensure that they are being implemented fairly and with transparency and also to report any abuses to the authorities.
Ultimately, the way forward for anticonversion laws in India would require a comprehensive approach that balances the right to freedom of religion and the protection of the cultural and social cohesion of the country.