Group drafts law to protect couples in inter-faith, inter-caste marriages

Fourty-year-old Santosh Jadhav from Konkan was threatened by panchayat members of his village that if he contested the gram panchayat elections they will boycott it because he had sold goods to a couple who had an inter-religion marriage. He won the gram panchayat elections but had to shut his general store because people shunned his shop after the boycott call. Jadhav filed a case in the civil court against members of the panchayat who had ordered the boycott. Seven years later, in 2011, the petition was dismissed on technical grounds.

27-year-old Preeti (name changed) was not allowed to attend her father's funeral by members of her community because she had married outside her caste

With boycott and ostracisation of couples for marrying outside their caste, religion or faith, besides 'honour killings', being reported from various parts of the country, a socio-legal group has taken it upon itself to draft a 'law to protect persons who have married outside their caste or religion'. The first meeting of the group to discuss the issue was held in Pune on Tuesday.

"The consultation is aimed at providing protection not only to aggrieved couples, but also to those who have suffered because they supported inter-faith or inter-caste marriage," said advocate Rama Sarode, secretary, Sahyog Trust that organised the meeting.

As per a preliminary draft prepared on the basis of discussion at the meeting, persons who promote or support any violence against such couples shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for seven years and imposed a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.

Social activist Vidya Bal, who took part in the consultations, suggested that a helpline be set up for aggrieved couples and shelter homes be started especially for couples staying in rural areas. "The social justice department has a scheme of giving cash awards for those opting for inter-caste/ inter-religious marriage. When such couples are in trouble and face boycott from their communities, the government must undertake some measures for their relief," said secretary of the People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Anwar Rajan.

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