Interfaith marriages

Source: By ZEESHAN SHAIKH: The Indian Express

The featuring of an interfaith couple in an advertisement aired by the Tata-owned Tanishq led to accusation of it promoting love jihad. Tanishq finally withdrew the advertisement fearing a larger impact on the brands. Here we explain the trend of interfaith marriages in India.

The Census does not record interfaith marriages in India nor has the government conducted any nationally representative survey to find out about such marriages.

A number of studies conducted by research scholars have found that interfaith marriages have limited impact on society at large. For instance, students and faculty of the Central Government-run International Institute for Population Sciences had presented a paper on interfaith marriages in India in 2013 by analysing data from the “India Human Development Survey (IHDS) data, 2005” to explore the extent of mixed marriages in India.

The India Human Development Survey 2005 (IHDS) is a nationally representative, multi-topic survey of 41,554 households in 1503 villages and 971 urban neighborhoods across India. It was jointly organised by researchers from the University of Maryland and the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi. Funding for the survey was provided by the National Institutes of Health. Though there was no direct question on inter-religious marriage, the paper has taken the religious affiliation of husband and wife to find the number of inter faith marriages.

The study suggests that 2.21 per cent of all married women between the age of 15-49 had married outside their religion. The proportion of inter-religious marriages is highest at 2.8 per cent among the women of the young age group (15-19) than other age groups which decrease with increasing age at marriage with 2.3 per cent for those in the age group 20-24, 2 per cent for 25-29 and 1.9 per cent for those above 30. Interreligious marriages are greater among the women living in urban areas at 2.9 per cent compared to 1.8 per cent for rural areas.

The prevalence of women marrying outside their faith is the highest amongst Christians with 3.5 per cent of women having mixed marriages. Sikhs come second at 3.2 per cent, Hindu’s 1.5 per cent and Muslims 0.6 per cent. The data, however, does not show the religion which the women are marrying into.

Punjab has the highest mixed marriages at 7.8 per cent. This high number is attributed to the somewhat similar religious customs and practices followed by Sikhism and Hinduism. Jharkhand at 5.7 per cent and Andhra Pradesh at 4.9 per cent also have a high proportion of mixed marriages. The lowest percentage of mixed marriages is in Bengal at 0.3 per cent, Chattisgarh 0.6 per cent and Rajasthan 0.7 per cent.

Sociologists believe mixed marriages, be they inter-religion or inter-race, help in the socio-cultural assimilation of communities and facilitate better integration into society.