Special Marriage Act

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Inter religion marriage is it still a taboo in India, what is my take on it

Well given the present scenario, nobody marries for a whim, when one decides to spend the rest of the life with another it definitely means that the person is special and worth the effort of keeping in our space. Though very personally I think marriage is an over hyped institution that has to be retired to oblivion. Having said that these are the musings that came up on inter-religion marriage…

When we actually look through history there have been inter-religion marriage lot of them approved and of course some of them immortalized by story tellers, historians and poets. Then came a phase when we got all upright and uptight of inter-religious marriages. Over the last twenty years I think we have moved on to a place where we accept this. Though a lot of counselling does occur before that.

The issue here is very simple, because when talk of religion we are talking of a way of life, a way we perceive people, and situations. The way we practice life skills and choose priorities. So the marriage would face a few challenges making the transition a little difficult.

Lack of support from friends and family, due to the innate skepticism that is attached to this courtship, couples tend to keep the relationship under wraps, this leads to an environment of lack of support. This according to sociologist Lynette Clemetson (Clementson 2000) could give rise to trust issues between the couple at a later stage.

Religion is a way of life, like maybe being Hindu idol worship is part of my psyche and where my spouse to be a Christian or Muslim it becomes blasphemous to him. Religion shapes our life style like Jains being vegetarian and eating before sunset, to philosophy of life, Muslims even have their own legal code. Two people coming from two different religious backgrounds, becomes challenging and they would have to work that extra to find the balance.

Building and maintaining a relation requires lot of patience and acceptances, Method of resolving issues vary culturally, that in itself becomes an issue, it is not easy to think outside the box we’ve lived in since our birth.

Most challenging aspect of inter-religious marriages is probably handling children and handing down belief systems, values and philosophies to children. Despite all religions having same values and spiritual aims the way they are practiced, the associated traditions are different. To make the children aware of both the religions without coming across as competition with each other is challenge in itself.

Parental acceptance is the opening issue that the inter-religion couple have to deal with. All sorts of issues like siblings marriage, social norms are all quoted to break the relationship.

If these are life and living issues, the legality of the marriage in itself is a process. There is the entire conversion issue, or having to go through the register marriage, one has to deal with Special Marriage Act. The application for registration of marriage under the special marriage act has so many bizzard things one of them being you actually has to state that you are not an idiot!!

A notice of intended Marriage needs to be filed with the sub-division magistrate the religious prejudices of the officers creates glitches. The act drafted in 1954 to provide space for couples from different religions, castes, races nationalities and Indian couples living outside India. To come to effect from 1955 replacing the 1872 British act. This affidavit can be filed in any court where either of the couple has lived for more than 30days. This affidavit is displayed for 30 days on the SDM’s office so that anyone who would like to object can go ahead and do so. In the absence or overruling of any objection the marriage gets solemnized on a chosen date in the presence of three witnesses.

Sounds very simple does it not, all them in practise it is very daunting.

Despite the fact the law requires only one partner to be for a month the SDM asks proof of residence for both. Rent agreement or telephone bill could be proof of residence but the SDM ask for voters ID proof. There is another way to residential proof. Police verification can also be used for residential proof though this is not really used. This 30 days period, very often invites parental wrath or even worse communal elements to cause problems for the couple. This entire concept of 30 days notice is the hangover of the British “calling the banns”

There SDM’s who have written to parents about individuals wanting to marry under special marriage act, or SDM’s who have insisted that the couple should marry under personal law acts of major religions. This would call for conversion of one of the partners.

At the end of the day instead of facilitating communal harmony and inter-religious marriage the state through the SDM only creates a chasm, for section 19 of the special marriage states the marriage solemnized under this act of any member of an undivided family who professes the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion shall be deemed to effect his severance from such family.

A marriage solemnized under this act has its impact on succession rights too.

If all this information is intimidating you can try Dhanak a group of inter-faith/caste couples. Just ensure that your partner is special enough in your life .

To all of you out there

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

― Khalil Gibran, The Prophet


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