The Gujarat Assembly on Thursday passed the Freedom of Religion Act 2003 Bill that penalises forcible or fraudulent religious conversion by marriage. The Bill will have provision for 3-10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh if the accused is found guilty.
The Bill amends a 2003 Act, and seeks to curb the “emerging trend in which women are lured to marriage for the purpose of religious conversion” as per its “statement of object.” A copy of the amendment Bill was made available in the State Assembly on Friday. Similar ‘love jihad’ laws have already been enacted in other BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
“We’re going to make amendments to Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003. Today, we’re going to present a law before the state assembly, that will stop people from luring Hindu girls into marriage with the intention of religious conversion,” India Today quoted Gujarat Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja as saying earlier in the day.
So far, the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 has been dealing with religious conversion through ‘allurement, force or by misrepresentation or by any other fraudulent means’. But the bill presented in the Assembly also mentioned that there are episodes of religious conversion promising a better lifestyle, divine blessings, and impersonation.
“There is an emerging trend in which women are lured to marriage for the purpose of religious conversion,” the Bill added.
However, the offense shall invite imprisonment of 3-5 years and up to Rs 2 lakh fine. If the victim is a minor, a woman, a Dalit or tribal, then the offenders may be punished with a jail term of 4-7 years and a fine of not less than Rs 3 lakh.