According to a recent survey by the Pew Research group, every 2 in 3 Indians express strong opinions on interfaith marriages and would actively like to stop them. The survey result indicates that most Indians like to believe that India is tolerant of other religions while they themselves oppose interfaith relationships.
This is interesting, but also an extremely negative framing of interfaith marriage, in the intro to this new survey study on religion in India. @PewReligion pic.twitter.com/mMSxb19Fub
— Susan Katz Miller (@susankatzmiller) June 30, 2021
The survey was titled 'Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation' and involved 29,999 interviews with respondents from most major faiths in 17 languages across 26 states of India. According to the survey, for 80% of the Muslims and 65% of Hindus interviewed, preventing people from their community from marrying into another religion was important. However, the responses were also gender-biased.
Around 67% Hindus, 80% Muslims, 59% Sikhs, and 66% Jains responded that women from their community marrying out of faith must be stopped. However, when it came to men from their community marrying out of faith, the statistics changed to 65% Hindus, 76% Muslims, 58% Sikhs, and 59% Jains. For Christian and Buddhist communities, 37% and 46%, respectively, said that women marrying out of faith should be stopped. In comparison, 35% Christians and 44% Buddhists said the same thing for men.
The study also found that people from the same religious communities "often don't feel they have much in common". "Indians simultaneously express enthusiasm for religious tolerance and a consistent preference for keeping their religious communities in segregated spheres - they live together separately," the study said. Even in the case of non-marital relationships, many "would prefer to keep people of certain religions out of their residential areas or village".
According to the survey, nearly 99% of Hindus, 98% of Muslims, 95% of Christians, and 97% of Buddhists share the same religion with their spouse. Hindu-Muslim interfaith marriages have long been socially controversial among conservative Indian families. The recent bill, India's Special Marriage Act, has now made it a legal hassle for interfaith couples to marry, mandating a 30-day notice period to register their marriage.
Some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led states have introduced laws to ban "unlawful conversion", which is presumably a response to a baseless conspiracy theory about "love jihad", which accuses Muslim men of luring Hindu women solely for converting them to Islam. Apart from legal hassles and peer pressure, interfaith couples also face social isolation and sometimes outright violence from extremist religious entities.