Who does not let you Love?

Explore the interactive based on 50 articles from the Economic and Political Weekly


The gap between fascination for and actual reaction to romantic love is wide, and universal in India. The mere act of choosing a partner can look like a rebellion. The binaries of “arranged marriage” and “love marriage” reinforce the idea that choice and consent can exist only in one of the camps: it can either be of parents or of the bride and the groom. Caste, region and religion intersect with patriarchy to restrict sexual choices. The family normalises patriarchy, and serves as the “legitimate” institution disciplining individual choice.

  • Family
  • Gender
  • Marriage
  • Honour
  • Values
  • Traditions

Marriage and Rape

Questioning the family involves questioning one’s parents, one’s siblings and children; it involves questioning unfreedoms which appear alongside intense love and affection. But unless our present family form is critiqued and transformed, can we really imagine a life free from coercion and violence, whether sexual or otherwise?

2013 | Editorial

Love as Rebellion and Shame: Honour Killings in the Punjabi Literary Imagination

Not all cases of love marriages end up in honour killings but a love affair is perceived as rebellion by the family and community in which the latter expects the former to save its honour. Failure to do so results in a state of permanent shame and persists for generations.

2012 | Paramjit S Judge

The Right to Choose if, Who and When to Marry

Four chapters on post-colonial Haryana explore how traditional caste panchayats, the modern state and the family collude against couples asserting their marital preferences. These key chapters delineate the collusion between traditional and modern institutions to wilfully obstruct love marriages, far too often resulting in a tragic finale for couples.

2007 | Shalini Grover

Loveless Patriarchy

The judiciary’s increasing incline towards Hindu right-wing populism has worrying consequences for feminist judicial activism. A reminder of this is the Supreme Court ruling in the case of a young adult woman, Hadiya from Kerala, who was illegally confined in her natal home after her consensual marriage to an adult male, Shafin Jahan, was declared invalid by the Kerala High Court.

2017 | Editorial

Matchmakers and Intermediation

Social and technological changes have altered existing institutions of intermediation and created new ones, even as changes in matchmaking have both responded and contributed to the development of the "arranged love marriage" system. The seemingly dramatic transformation in forms and institutions of intermediation has nevertheless kept intact or even reinforced both caste and class configurations within the marriage market as well as gender stereotypes in the choice of bride/groom.

2012 | Madhurima Mukhopadhyay

Inter-caste Marriage and Shakta Myths of Karnataka

Karnataka is one of the states where love marriages provoke honour killings, where the Sangh Parivar—as part of its “love jihad” campaign—attacks inter-religious couples, and beats up meat-eaters. Do these jatra practices, rooted in ancient memories, still serve the purpose of protecting the sanctity of caste? In what way have new developments changed the traditional meanings associated with the mythand the practice?

2017 | Rahamat Terikere


One of the ways in which the caste system is sustained and perpetuated is through endogamous marriages, that is marriage within the same caste.
Marrying outside one’s caste could result in being ostracised from the family or social circles and losing rights to property. In some places, couples are brought before caste panchayats dominated by higher-caste landowning men with unrestrained powers to authorise economic and other sanctions, including the use of violence. The latter could include burning the couple alive, administering poison and electrocution in village “executions” as well as expelling their families from the ancestral village, and destroying their property, crops and household goods.

  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Caste
  • Mobility
  • Inter-Caste marriage
  • Marriage
  • Endogamy

Caste in the 21st Century: From System to Elements

The argument that while caste as a system is more or less dead, individual castes are flourishing is widely accepted. However, the notion of "caste as a system" is derived mainly from studies of the rural rather than the urban community. In this article, individual caste is seen in the context of both rural and urban communities and its several aspects, particularly the rule of endogamy as its defining criterion, are analysed at some length and some implications of the analysis are pointed out.

2007 | A M Shah

Enforcing Cultural Codes-Gender and Violence in Northern India

Inter-caste and intra-caste marriages which infringe cultural norms and customary practices invariably lead to direct violence perpetrated by the male family members on the couple generally and on the girl specially. The author's analysis of this widespread phenomenon in rural north India throws up aspects of caste, class and gender which have a crucial interconnection.

1997 | Prem Chowdhury

Khap Panchayats: A Socio-Historical Overview

This paper gives a brief account of how these informal social institutions for conflict resolution took root and the reasons for their continuing influence. It also looks into how big landlords have come to use khaps for their own interests and the causes that prompt these bodies to interfere in marriages that do not conform to traditional norms.

2012 | Ajay Kumar

Inter-Caste Marriage and the Liberal Imagination

This article shows how Vijay Tendulkar’s play “Kanyadaan” both unravels and embodies the most troubled aspects of the relationship between caste and gender in postcolonial India.

2013 | Ania Loomba

Sex Ratios, Cross-Region Marriages and the Challenge to Caste Endogamy in Haryana

In the wake of shortage of brides due to an imbalanced sex ratio, present-day Haryana is witnessing a rise in inter-caste marriages, mostly in the form of cross-region unions. This paper points out that such unions are accepted locally in the face of necessity.

2013 | Paro Mishra

Interrogating Caste and Religion in India's Emerging Middle Class

The paper is based on a questionnaire study of caste and religion among university students in three of India's leading universities - in short, representatives of India's new middle class. Using an extensive battery of agree-disagree items, two major scales concerning ideological attitudes towards caste, on the one hand, and personal involvement with caste, on the other, are generated. After demonstrating that it is commonplace for these students to be opposed in principle but involved in practice, the paper relates the scales to independent measures of caste, class and religious background.

2006 | Loren R Demerath, N J Demerath III, Surinder S Jodhka


A citizen’s chances of being safe and his/her access to justice, in public spaces or otherwise, can depend upon how they are perceived with respect to sexuality and morality.
Dominant moral codes are often based on the mythical concept of “Indian culture” often poorly articulated through colonial notions of modesty, purity, safety and obscenity. Protection remains dependent on compliance to these notions, while the bodies of women, or of those who deviate from these intangible social rules are rendered less mobile and in constant risk of surveillance or violence.

  • Moral Policing
  • Sexuality
  • Gender
  • Women
  • Love
  • Relationships

Body, Gender and Sexuality: Politics of Being and Belonging

The essay looks at the diverse constructions of women's bodies across castes, classes, regions, religions and other categories.

2010 | Meena Gopal, Sabala

The Kerala Model: Disciplining the Intimate

The installation of religion and caste in the secular democratic space of civil society, as also its virtual entrenchment in politics, has, through the operation of a simple law of physics, expunged secular love and affect from public spaces.

2014 | Meena T Pillai

Dangerous Liaisons

Safety in public spaces has thus far been tied to the notion of state responsibility and client-hood. For women particularly, this status of client-hood is linked intimately with ideologies of protectionism and the need to demonstrate protection-worthiness through manufacturing respectability. This reduces rather than enhances women's access to public space.

2007 | Shilpa Phadke

Kissing in Protest

The real issue is a protest against moral policing, triggered off when a bunch of political hoodlums vandalised a coffee shop in Kerala in the name of upholding “Indian Culture”. Kissing in public then became a symbolic medium of protest against all such acts of self-righteousness.

2014 | Sinjini Bhattacharya

Should Muslims Fear the Kiss?: Body as Resistance in the Times of Hindutva

This article questions the ways in which certain Muslim/Islamist groups engaged with the "Kiss of Love" protests in Kerala. These protests openly challenged certain dominant perspectives about the "body", sex and morality, apart from expressly resisting the penetration of Hindutva into Kerala.

2014 | P K Yasser Arafath

Section 377

Section 377 is the biggest affront to the dignity and humanity of a substantial minority of Indian citizens. The archaic law makes criminals out of homosexuals by policing consensual non-heterosexual sex. There is no jurisprudential justification for this section of the Indian Penal Code that makes criminals out of people on the basis of their sexual orientation.
This law presupposes one set of morals or beliefs to be superior over another, allowing the state to use its power to punish a particular practice on grounds of “immorality” only because a majority believe it to be so.

  • Homosexuality
  • Liberty
  • Privacy
  • Section 377

Section 377 and the Dignity of Indian Homosexuals

The Indian courts need to recognise that they cannot permit the state to continue to demean the existence of people with same sex desires in this country

2006 | Alok Gupta

No Jurisprudential Basis

Laws illegalising private consensual sexual activity, touch upon the most private of human conduct, sexual behaviour. They seek to control a personal relationship that must be given a formal recognition in the law, and is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals. We must remember that as a society and as a constitutional democracy, our obligation is to the liberty and equality of all in thought and in practice, and equality can never be made to find its legitimacy at the whims of a misinformed majority and certainly not in an antiquated, baseless moral code.

2008 | Animesh Sharma

Struggling for Reason: Fundamental Rights and the Wrongs of the Supreme Court

A close reading of the judgment upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code indicates that the Supreme Court misread the Constitution and legal precedent. More worryingly, it failed to uphold the fundamental rights of Indian citizens.

2017 | Danish Sheikh

Queer Rights and the Puttaswamy Judgment

If we are to take the Puttaswamy decision’s mandate seriously, we must recognise this element of vulnerability with respect to expressing private autonomy in public spaces. Grappling with this vulnerability might be the true possibility of transformative engagement as far as the decision is concerned.

2017 | Danish Sheikh

Naz 2: A Critique

This article argues that Naz 2 holding against the indictment of the unconstitutionality of Section 377 is specious, to say the least. It points out that the reasoning is quite peculiar in many parts, and that while its institutional integrity might be at stake for the Supreme Court, for millions of the sexual minorities, it is nothing less than their fundamental human right to live with dignity that is at stake.

2014 | Upendra Baxi


For long, right-wing groups have harassed young couples in public spaces. Vigilantism blurs the concept of guilt and innocence and escapes any easy definition of moral culpability. However, it is most dangerous when implicitly or explicitly supported by the state, as under this government.
For instance, even ahead of Valentine’s Day 2018, members of the Shiv Sena in Uttar Pradesh conducted a “lathi puja” and stated that these sticks would “teach a lesson” to couples being affectionate in public. Such vigilantism, is not new. It began more than a decade ago.

  • Bajrang Dal
  • Valentine’s Day Protests
  • Vishwa Hindu Parishad
  • Shiv Sena
  • Ram Sena

The Ordinary Life of Hindu Supremacy

The author presents a personal, first-person, account of his experience of working with Bajrang Dal activists in Ahmedabad. He attempts to throw light on the everyday lives of the Bajrang Dal boys, especially in the context of increased reportage on right-wing vigilante groups and their attacks on minorities across India. In this three-part article, he argues that there is more to these groups than violence. In certain parts of India like Gujarat, these groups and activists are embedded in the everyday life of the neighbourhood, where they often act as problem solvers and intermediaries.

2018 | Moyukh Chatterjee

Dangerous Speech in Real Time: Social Media, Policing, and Communal Violence

The article examines how a set of key actors—the police, civil society and social media platforms responded to a series of violent incidents in Pune in 2014 that resulted in the death of Mohsin Sheikh. The hate speech by the Hindu Rashtra Sena leaders; the murder of Sheikh; violence and arson against Muslims; the circulation of morphed images; the actions of the police and civil society groups, were all part of an ecosystem of events that occurred at the time. What is new here, when compared to earlier incidents of communal violence is the technology being used—social media through internet enabled mobile phones. This in turn raises a number of legal and technological questions that need to be investigated further.

2017 | Siddharth Narrain

A Story of Murder and Mayhem in Maharashtra

Vigilantism has deep roots in the state’s political culture, going back a long way.

2017 | Vidyadhar Date

GUJARAT- Forging a National Identity...by Force

The recent attack by a mob of outsiders on the staff and students of one of the country's premier institutes in Ahmedabad on the pretext of 'correcting' the behaviour and lifestyle brings into sharp focus the reach of the saffron brigade and the tacit support it has been granted by the current government.

1998 | Darshini Mahadevia


Family law judgments in India are replete with discussions on the nature of marital sexuality, where judges invoke cultural ideas about sexuality to resolve legal questions around marriage. The language of judgments have long-term implications on how women’s bodies are talked about, how rape and consent are defined in the courtroom and how perceptions about gender affect the understanding of violence.
Even within the progressive space of the Special Marriage Act, the courts have often shown a bizarre understanding of inter-religious marriages. In Goolrukh Gupta’s case (2012), a Parsi woman who married a non-Parsi was told by a court that, she couldn’t practice the Zoroastrian faith because she had married outside her religion and therefore the “religious identity of a woman … shall merge into that of the husband”.

  • Marriage
  • Law
  • Justice
  • Right to Religion
  • Special Marriage Act

Rape, Female Bodies, and Language in the Courtroom

Two judgements have come under the scanner for the language they used to define consent and talk about survivors of sexual assault.

2017 | EPW Engage

Anatomy of the Special Marriage Act

In principle the Special Marriage Act recognises the independence of individuals and is intended to enable their liberation from the traditional, coercive collectivities in the matter of marriage. But the conditionalities attached and procedure prescribed for special marriages provide enough time and scope for family, caste and community to harass those who wish to take recourse to the act.

1991 | Kameshwar Choudhary

If Hadiya Had Been a Man

How can gender not come into a case in which, despite clearly and consistently stating her thoughts, feelings and wishes multiple times over nearly two years—in court and outside whenever she got the opportunity—she is still not being seen and treated as an adult who knows what she wants?

2017 | Editorial

Law and 'Live-in' Relationships in India

This paper focuses upon some of the legal moves which have brought adult heterosexual non-marital cohabitation patterns, popularly termed "live-in" relations, into public focus in India. These legal moves do not unambiguously signify legal sanction and recognition of new forms of non-marital heterosexual cohabitation patterns in India as some popular and judicial readings seem to suggest.

2012 | Anuja Agrawal

Controversy over Age of Consent

In the recent debate over amendments to the law on rape, the age of consent for women attracted attention, for almost all the wrong reasons. What was overlooked was that the law has not helped in interventions at the community level to curb child marriages arranged by natal families.

2013 | Flavia Agnes

Losing Your Religion

Where does a woman stand with respect to the freedom of religion as a fundamental right?

2012 | Anuja Agrawal


Honour is not gender-neutral; it is housed in the bodies of women, who ironically enough can be violated or murdered to protect the notion of honour.
Individual honour is subordinate to family and religious or caste community honour. Typically, it is maintained by placing restrictions on women’s movements, opportunities, and life choices. The mere perception that “a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonours’” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.
A transgressing couple is usually seen to have behaved “selfishly” and without concern for the “honour” of the elders. The couple’s family is perceived as the victim who might lose its status within social circles/caste/kinship and therefore, exile, disinheritance or in extreme cases, murder of the woman or couple, may seem justified in the eyes of the larger kinship that steps in, if the immediate family is not perceived to be doing enough to restore its honour.

  • Gender Relations
  • Society
  • Patriarchy

The Concept of Honour

This paper examines the manifestation of patriarchal and caste honour beyond the moment of choosing one's romantic or sexual partner. The daily codes of conduct as they operate in a rural setting are explored here through a gender-caste matrix. It argues that subordinated women can collectively challenge strictures of brahminical patriarchy, especially when our interventions address the intersectionality of caste and gender.

2013 | Manisha Gupte

Loving and Living in 21st Century India

Honour killings are rampant in many parts of India, particularly in its north and northwest states. An account of a young couple who managed to escape and marry but are still being hunted and thus, hiding.

2012 | Suhasini Raj

The Game of Hurt Sentiments

Only when you have the power, can you afford to be hurt, and to show it.

2017 | Editorial

Rape and Honour Crimes: The NCRB Report 2012

The statistics presented in the recently released National Crime Records Bureau report 2012, reaffirm the rising trend of crimes against women. The abysmal conviction rate for these crimes reveals the ineptness of the criminal justice system, which continues to remain hostile to women across the country. The exact extent of honour crimes is not known because these have yet to be recognised by law. The lawmakers need to shed their apathy and design laws to tackle these crimes.

2013 | Albeena Shakil

Human Rights, Honour Killings and the Indian Law

This article argues that in the absence of normative criteria that can identify a set of universal human rights, the "right to have constitutional rights" can take on the onus of being that universal human right. In the case of honour killings, the right to have and, more importantly, access legitimate fundamental and legal rights is under severe doubt.

2013 | Sneha Annavarapu

The State

In an environment where parents, police and society are the worst kind of enemies to a couple in love, there are few openings and fewer opportunities to escape. There is a lack of awareness of the laws, there is a hostile police force which almost always sides with the parents, there is a disapproving social atmosphere and few shelter homes or support institutions.
In 2017, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adiyanath launched “Anti-Romeo Squads—to protect women from sexual harassment on the streets, who unleashed violence on consenting unmarried couples. State surveillance to protect women ends up curbing sexuality and dictating one particular moral point of view as superior, promulgating a conservative view of relations between men and women.

  • Police
  • Political Groups
  • Policy
  • Government
  • Law
  • Values

Kanyashree Prakalpa: State Intervention to Prevent Child Marriage

The conditional cash transfer scheme of the Government of West Bengal, Kanyashree Prakalpa, has been hailed as a much-needed intervention to combat the high rate of child marriage in the state, and has received numerous awards since its inception. The scheme incentivises girls to continue education, while simultaneously delaying early marriages. However, an examination of the working of the scheme highlights the fact that rather than promoting higher education of women, the scheme has ended up entangled in the marriage economy of rural Bengal.

2018 | Ishita Savina Chowdhury

Neither Moral Nor Policing

The police surveillance on young people in Kerala seems to have risen to new heights with active monitoring of youth lifestyles, which the police perceive to be linked to youth crime. These micro-fascisms only reveal the growing weakness of the pillars of 20th century Malayalee social disciplining. It is up to the politicised youth, however, to turn this into an opportunity for democratic transformation.

2017 | J Devika

Religion, Modernity and Change: Child Marriage in Late Travancore

An examination of the child marriage system in Travancore - a princely state in Kerala before Independence - in the 1930s and 1940s finds that advocacy of child marriage has not been limited to communities considered traditional. There were gendered, community-based, official, unofficial, and popular ideas about children in the context of marriage and out of the competing official discourses on gender and modernity in Travancore, the one related to Christianity eventually became dominant. It presents the layers of discourses related to gender and child marriage: an official one in census reports, another in mid-level legal discussions, and a third more popular view. It discusses official presentations about gender relations as found in census reports in which concepts of modernity and civilisation are crucial and also an account of debates in the Travancore Legislative Council about child marriage in the 1930s. It also reviews a large number of cases involving dialogues between citizens and civil servants.

2014 | Anna Lindberg

Half Steps against Honour Crimes

The Law Commission's bill on combating honour crimes falls short of what is required.

2012 | Editorial


The rhetoric of “Love Jihad” has introduced terror even in love; it has made the love of a Muslim man suspect.
The latest victim of the hateful rhetoric was Afrazul, a migrant labourer from Bengal who was lynched in cold blood in Rajasthan.
If the love jihad propaganda demonises Muslim men, it infantilises Hindu women. In the campaigns and discourses of the Hindu Right in India, gender has become an important means of defining and contributing to sharper divisions between Hindus and Muslims, intersecting with assertions of patriarchy and community identity.

  • Caste
  • Community
  • Muslim
  • Hindutva
  • Love Jihad
  • Hate Crimes

Hindu Women, Muslim Men: Love Jihad and Conversions

The fake claim by the Hindu right that there is a "Love Jihad" organisation which is forcing Hindu women to convert to Islam through false expressions of love is similar to a campaign in the 1920s in north India against alleged "abductions". Whether 1920 or 2009, Hindu patriarchal notions appear deeply entrenched in such campaigns: images of passive victimised Hindu women at the hands of inscrutable Muslims abound, and any possibility of women exercising their legitimate right to love and their right to choice is ignored.

2009 | Charu Gupta

Anxieties of Hindu Right in Everyday Realm

The attempts by the activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Jagran Manch of Kotdwar, a town in Uttaranchal, to forcefully stop Hindu women from visiting Muslim male tailors illustrate the inclination of the Hindu communalists to propagate the image of the sexually charged, lustful Muslim male, violating the pure body of the Hindu woman. The VHP is trying to operate in both the private and the public domain, attempting to monopolise the field of everyday representation.

2002 | Charu Gupta

Myths and Prejudices about 'Love Jihad'

The case histories of seven Muslim-Hindu couples not only give the lie to assertions of the "love-jihad" propagandists, they also bust a lot of generally accepted anti-Muslim prejudices.

2014 | Jyoti Punwani

The Afrazul Killing Video as a Perfect Anti-Muslim Crime

Where all such hate crime shared on social media, especially lynchings, builds an ever-present sense of fear for the Muslim, this video does away with all padding, any semblance of rationale, the use of passion as motivator, and mob as executive. This is a radical break from the past where the Hindu right felt a need to justify itself even to the rest of the country.

2017 | Maaz bin Bilal

Wages of Communal Violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli

Three years after the communal carnage in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in Uttar Pradesh, in which close to a hundred people died and an estimated 75,000 were displaced, thousands of survivors have not been able to return to their villages. Even those not directly affected, who fled in the wake of the violence, continue to live in slum-like conditions without basic services. The Aman Biradari team that surveyed these affected villages concludes that the permanent divisions between communities who once lived together peacefully represent the triumph of communal politics.

2016 | Harsh Mander, Akram Akhtar Chaudhary, Zafar Eqbal, Rajanya Bose


It is imperative that we also question what gets celebrated as love. What forms of love does Valentine’s Day privilege? The popularity of the day, which coincides with the emergence of a liberalised economy, hinges on certain notions of love and gifting.
But, beyond the obvious materialism that surrounds Valentine’s Day celebrations, class structures continue allow and disallow love in different ways. Wealth or the lack thereof plays an instrumental role in romantic lives—the compulsion to retain class status; the burden of paying dowry, having to use marriage as a livelihood strategy or the fear of disinheritance.

  • Class
  • Wealth
  • Consumerism
  • Capitalism
  • Economy
  • Status

Marriage Fairs among Maheshwaris - A New Matrimonial Strategy

The marriage fair organised by the maheshwaris, a caste belonging to the successful commercial and industrial community of the marwaris, gathers for two or three days hundreds of young men and women in the company of their parents and helps maheshwari families to select spouses for their children and strengthens caste endogamy. It is especially intended for poor or middle class maheshwaris, who face great difficulties in arranging the marriages of their children.

1998 | Veronique Pache

The Popularity of 'Valentine Day'

Coinciding with the emergence of a liberalised economy since the 1980s, Valentine's Day has become a popular festival in India among urban youth, provoking hostile reactions from some. Instead of passing moral judgment over this festival, it needs to be objectively assessed within larger changes taking place in traditional Indian social life, more particularly the shaky arranged-marriage system.

2014 | Pravin J Patel

Bengali Bridal Diaspora: Marriage as a Livelihood Strategy

While cross-regional and cross-cultural marriages appear to be occurring more often, it is Bengali brides who seem to be migrating to far-flung and culturally strange, rural destinations away from their own homeland. This article uncovers reasons for this bridal diaspora and finds that in West Bengal, a consumption smoothing strategy of the family is to marry one daughter in a socially approved dowry marriage in the state itself and send the rest out as marriage migrants. However, migrating as a bride achieves both marriage and work. Sexual and reproductive labours combine with economic labour, pointing to the increasingly complex forms of migrating in which women are imbricated.

2010 | Ravinder Kaur

Romancing Material Culture in Urban Public Spaces

India, since the 1990s, has witnessed a strong urban-centric pattern of high growth. Urban India is, however, not just about economic change. The social and cultural aspects of economic growth, though subtle and difficult to capture, are an integral part of this process. This paper attempts to explore the changing dynamics of an urban Indian environment in conjunction with material culture as observed in public spaces. It focuses on the complexities of economic and socio-cultural processes that indicate or lead to a culture centred on consumption. The paper discusses the results of a survey conducted in 2003 on Valentine-s Day in Pune, providing evidence of the emergence of material culture. It explores the issues of acceptance and incorporation of an imported celebration like Valentine's Day, and discusses the evolving consumption patterns.

2006 | Rohini Sahni, V Kalyan Shankar

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Archival Assistance: Ankita Pandey, Rifa Patel

Curated by Vishnupriya Bhandaram

Illustrations by Chaitanya Mandugula

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