What Is Love? And What’s Politics Got To Do With It?
Love is a deeply personal affair, but a lot of us don’t have a say in who we can love or can’t.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Love - it has many names, it comes in many forms, and there are at least three days to celebrate it that we can think of.
The Science of Love
Let’s start with the science of it. Like all emotions, here too your brain and your hormones have a role to play. Research shows that falling love is a three-step process. Step one is lust, step two attraction and finally, step three which is attachment. At each step there are several hormones that come into play, from testosterone and estrogen to serotonin, adrenaline and oxytocin. There are other factors too, like your smell, and before you think the ads got it right, no, this smell has to do with pheromones, found in your sweat and other bodily fluids. Then there is BMI or body mass index, the structure of your face etc.
But we’d like to cut the science class short and move on to the politics of love.
And we’d like to start with a quote from Anarkali who asked ‘Pyaar kiya toh darna kya?’ and another quote, whose origins are not known, but is equally important to this story ‘Jab miya biwi raazi, toh kya karega Qazi?’
Why are these questions important? Love is a deeply personal affair, but a lot of us don’t have a say in who we can love or can’t. And no, we are not talking about love marriage versus arranged marriage or culture versus culture. We are talking about fundamental rights.
Right to Privacy
In 2017, the landmark Puttaswamy judgement of the Supreme Court said: “Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation […] Personal choices governing a way of life are intrinsic to privacy.” Sounds straightforward, right? We all know it isn’t.
Four BJP-ruled states have recently brought in ordinances to curb so-called ‘Love-Jihad’. Anti-conversion laws are not new. In 1967, Odisha enacted the Freedom of Religion Law and in 1968 MP enacted the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam. These laws were upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional - but that was before the right to privacy was crystallised. The anti-conversion ordinances by states like UP and MP - which were touted by BJP leaders as measures to tackle love jihad even if the laws don't use the phrase - are being justified on the grounds of stopping forcible religious conversions.
Violation of Fundamental Rights
And here’s why these ordinances are dangerous. Take the UP ordinance for example. Section 3 of this ordinance makes religious conversion purely for the sake of marriage punishable by imprisonment. This is in direct opposition of three fundamental rights under the Constitution. Article 21 that guarantees right to personal liberty, Article 14 that prohibits arbitrary exercise of State power and Article 25 which assures us the fundamental right to practice any religion, including the right to convert.
Next, Section 4 of the ordinance says that a case can be filed by any aggrieved person (which is already very vague) OR someone related to the couple by blood. This means anyone, from your grandmother to her third cousin, can file a case if they are opposed to your marriage. Section 6 of the ordinance gives the court power to nullify a marriage where either side has converted, even if neither party to the marriage has complained, which goes against all the general principles of marriage law. The wording used speaks of a man converting before/after marriage or the man converting the woman. So, the language of the section also ignores a woman's agency entirely.
The list of why an ordinance like this is unconstitutional is long. Here are a few more reasons - according to the ordinance the District Magistrate has to be satisfied that any conversion is not forced. Anyone seeking to convert their religion even if not for marriage has to give 60 days' notice to the DM - which when it comes to inter-faith marriages, just puts the couple at risk. History has shown that laws preventing inter-caste, inter-religion and inter-racial marriages have always been proven wrong and have been a violation of human rights. Even Voldemort lost his battle against Harry Potter.
Look, all we are saying is, let love be about love. And while there may be cases that require State intervention, laws around it can’t be so rigid that being in love becomes a frightening prospect. It’s 2021 and we’d like to end again with Anarkali, who sang ‘pardah nahin jab koi khuda se, bandoh se parda karna kya’.
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