Hadiya case: Fight of a woman to marry man of choice

Hadiya case: Fight of a woman to marry man of choice
From Al Jazeera - November 28, 2017

New Delhi, India -From the confines of her parents' home to the regulation of a hostel; from the "custody" of her parents to the "guardianship" of the college dean: freedom is arriving in instalments for 24-year-old Hadiya.

India's top court on Monday finally heard Hadiya, a woman from a Hindu family whose marriage to a Muslim man had been annulled by a lower court earlier this year. She has been under the custody of her father since then.

"I want my freedom. I have been in unlawful custody for 11 months. I want to be a good citizen, a good doctor but I want to live true to my faith," the 24-year-old medical student told a three-judge bench at the Supreme Court in New Delhi.

Hadiya, who was previously known by her Hindu name, Akhila Asokan, converted to Islam last January and married a Muslim man later that year despite opposition from her family.

#HadiyaCase: After the 24-year-old was set free by the SC, she heads for Salem, expects to meet her husband.

Mumbai Mirror (@MumbaiMirror) November 28, 2017

Hadiya's husband Safin Jahan approached the Supreme Court to challenge the lower court's order. Last month the Supreme Court said that consent of an adult for marriage is prime.

The top court in its earlier hearing in August had reserved its judgement and instead ordered an investigation by the country's anti-terror agency into whether the marriage was, in fact, a "Love Jihad".

Rights activists and feminists have accused state institutions of perpetuating a "patriarchal and Islamophobic" narrative pushed by far-right Hindu groups.

'Shameful show' by the court

In recent years, far-right Hindu groups have stepped up a campaign against "Love Jihad" - a term for what they consider to be an alleged Islamist conspiracy to convert Hindu women through seduction, marriage and money.

Hadiya's father KM Ashokan has alleged that his daughter converted to Islam as part of a plan to send her to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

In its latest orders, the apex court sent Hadiya to a college in the southern state of Tamil Nadu to pursue her studies. The state police forces will be responsible for her security for the next 11 months until she completes them.

This takes her out of her parents' "custody", which Hadiya on Monday described as illegal. On her way to New Delhi from her home in Kottayam, she had said that she wanted to stay with her husband.

Kapil Sibbal, senior counsel for Shafin, told Al Jazeera that the court order today spells freedom for Hadiya and that "no impediments have been placed on her".

But Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, says Monday was "a weak and shameful show" by the court.

"It's a limited measure of liberty she has got. The Supreme Court has failed to do its duty which is to protect her constitutional liberty. What I would have expected the Supreme Court to tell her is that - 'You are completely free'. Why is the court saying that 'you must study here, and you must live in a hostel'? How is this the court's business?" Krishnan told Al Jazeera.

"This day will be remembered for Hadiya's bravery. Her courageous voice shames the Supreme Court. Hadiya's insistence on being heard and her courage ensured she has got some measure of liberty," she added.

Hadiya's father KM Ashokan's counsel argued that the court must first examine the probe report submitted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

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Vidyut (@Vidyut) November 27, 2017

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