Women's Rights

Hadiya case: Supreme Court says consent is prime in marriage

Hindu groups accuse Hadiya, who converted and married to a Muslim man, a victim of 'Love Jihad', now top court agrees to hear her version.

Some far-right Hindu groups have portrayed interfaith marriages as a Muslim conspiracy to destroy Hinduism in India [Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images]

Hadiya is finally going to be heard - a right that was denied to her by her parents, her community and even the highest court in her home state of Kerala.

India's Supreme Court on Monday said that consent of an adult for marriage is prime - a verdict that women's rights activists have been waiting for.

The top court also directed the police in the southern state to present Hadiya in the court in New Delhi on November 27.

"I think the Supreme Court's observations saying they want to find out what Hadiya thinks is a welcome order. She is an adult woman, she has to be treated as such," said Vrinda Grover, Supreme Court lawyer and women's rights activist.

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Akhila Ashokan, now known as Hadiya, had adopted the Islamic faith and married a Muslim man Shafin Jahan in December 2016.

She had been confined to her father's house in Kottayam since May, when the Kerala High Court annulled her marriage.

Her father, KM Ashokan, angered by his daughter's decision, had petitioned the Kerala High Court, alleging that his daughter had been forcibly converted and was being held against her will.

"When an adult woman, even if she marries a convicted terrorist, that is her right. The Kerala High Court's annulment of her marriage is wholly without jurisdiction. She should not be confined in this manner, only a criminal can be," Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy told Al Jazeera.

On August 16, the Supreme Court had ordered a probe by the country's "anti-terror" agency into whether the marriage was part of a "Love Jihad" conspiracy or whether the woman converted to Islam of her own free will.

"I am concerned that with the next date of hearing a month away, she will have to suffer and live with her parents against her wishes," Grover said.

'Love Jihad' myth

Far-right Hindu groups allege that "Love Jihad" is a conspiracy by Muslim groups to lure Hindu women into marriages with Muslim men and to convert them to Islam.

The court was hearing a petition by Hadiya's husband, Jahan, which said the high court order was an "insult to the independence of the women of India as it completely takes away their right to think for themselves".

India's top probe body, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) are looking into Jahan's allegedly "radical" views and his suspected links to banned Islamic groups.

"The Hadiya case is fast emerging as one case I have been watching with growing discomfort and anger," said activist Harnidh Kaur.

She said that the case paints an entire minority community as "aggressors and manipulators", referring to allegations of "Love Jihad".

"To even assume there's some sort of 'Love Jihad' is atrocious, and to think that the SC continues this charade of paying heed to the idea is extremely disheartening."

The top court's observations on Monday however, provided some succour to Jahan.

Activist Rahul Easwar released a video last week that showed Hadiya pleading for her freedom and stating that her life is under threat at her father's house.

"You have to get me out fast. I am sure I will be killed tomorrow or day after. My father is getting angry, I know. When I walk, he is pushing and kicking me," Hadiya says in the video.

Women's rights groups, including the Kerala Women's Commission, have asked for a police probe into Hadiya's present living conditions.

Source: Al Jazeera News