Women's rights

A woman does not lose her religious identity by marrying outside her community, observes SC

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said only a woman can choose to change her religion.

The Supreme Court of India said on Thursday that a woman does not lose her religious identity if she marries outside her community, The Hindu reported. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra made the observation while hearing the case of a Parsi woman who had married a Hindu and wanted to attend the last rites of her parents.

A five-judge Constitution bench is deciding the question whether a Parsi woman can keep her religious identity intact after choosing to marry someone from another faith. The complainant, Goolrokh M Gupta, was barred by her community from offering prayers for her dead parents because she had married a Hindu.

The court on Thursday disagreed with the common law doctrine which holds that the religion of a woman is merged with that of the man she marries. “The Special Marriage Act confers in her the right of choice,” Misra observed. “Her choice is sacred. I ask myself a question: Who can take away the religious identity of a woman? The answer is only a woman can choose to curtail her own identity.” The common law doctrine was upheld by the Gujarat High Court in 2010.

But the Supreme Court on Thursday asked senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the “Valsad Parsi Trust”, to apprise it by December 14 whether the trust could allow the complainant to attend the last rites of her parents, PTI reported.

“A man marries outside the community and is permitted to retain his religious identity,” the court said. “But a woman is not allowed to marry outside [her community] and retain her religious identity. How can a woman be debarred?”

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