ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Church, State and Secular Spaces

The current public debate prompted the bill aimed at reforming divorce laws has been silent on important issues. How will the demands being put forward by the Church for incorporation in the new bill affect women's rights.

Just when it seemed that the Christian women’s groups have successfully manoeuvred a tight rope walk and brought about the necessary reforms within the archaic marriage laws, their efforts seem to be getting washed away by a major controversy. The bill and the controversy around it raise several complex issues concerning secular spaces, minority privileges, notions of equality and aspects of modernising an archaic statute. Unfortunately for Christian women, their efforts spanning over 17 years are being concretised with the benevolence of a right-wing political party. Viewed along with the recent attacks on Christians and churches in the country, the shrinking of secular spaces within the Indian polity and increasing intolerance towards minorities, it is but natural that the official government bill is suspect.

At the centre of the controversy is the stipulation that a valid Christian marriage can be performed only between two Christians. Since the prevailing statute permits marriages between a Christian and a non-Christian, extinguishing this provision would amount to an unnecessary interference into accepted community practices. But is this fear justified? Is the posture adopted by the Church contradictory to recent trends in matrimonial law? Will it serve to eliminate the ambiguity and loss of rights to women in inter-religious marriages? These issues need to be examined from the perspective of stark courtroom realities.

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