Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

India: Inter-caste marriages among urban Gujaratis, including reported social and legal repercussions

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 28 June 2004
Citation / Document Symbol IND42633.E
Reference 5
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, India: Inter-caste marriages among urban Gujaratis, including reported social and legal repercussions, 28 June 2004, IND42633.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c1e0.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Information on Indian views of inter-caste marriage was found, but information regarding inter-caste marriage among urban Gujaratis was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Regarding the caste system, several organizations indicated that the government of India has made an effort to eliminate discrimination based on caste, but that social pressure maintains the tradition to some degree (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5; International Religious Freedom Report 2003 18 Dec. 2003, Sec. 3; HRW Sept. 2001, Sec. 4). Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that although the government of India prohibits discrimination based on caste, the "practice of 'untouchability' ... remains very much a part of rural India" (Sept. 2001).

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003 observed that although both the Civil Rights Act of 1955 and the Indian constitution banned discrimination based on caste, in practice, the traditional caste system continues to divide society (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5). The report indicated that in general, despite the presence of laws intended to protect those of the lowest social strata, dalits or "casteless" Indians, government authorities were often ineffective in combating societal practices, especially in rural areas (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5).

The International Religious Freedom Report 2003 indicated that discrimination based on caste continued to prevail despite efforts by modern Indian leaders to eliminate traditional attitudes (18 Dec. 2003, Sec. 3).

Regarding social attitudes towards inter-caste marriage, HRW indicated that traditionally "rigid social norms of purity and pollution are socially enforced through strict prohibitions on marriage or other social interactions between castes" (Sept. 2001, Sec. 4). According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), although inter-caste marriages among the higher castes of Indians were (in 2001) becoming more acceptable in some countries, relationships and marriages between upper- and lower-caste members were still socially condemned in India (HRW Sept. 2001).

The HRW report described the case of an inter-caste couple who were publicly hanged by members of their own families for refusing to end their relationship (Sept. 2001, Sec. 4). As well, HRW noted that inter-caste marriages may precipitate large-scale attacks on the villages of the lower-caste spouse (Sept. 2001, Sec. 4). A brief media search revealed several articles about inter-caste couples being harassed, tortured and/or killed as a result of their relationships (Indian Express 18 May 2004; newindpress.com 17 May 2004; Indian Express 29 Nov. 2003; Frontline 30 Aug.-12 Sept. 2003; BBC 8 Aug. 2001).

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003 indicated that people in rural areas were more likely than those in urban centres to strictly follow the caste system (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5).

In 2002, articles were published that suggested that Gujarat tended to be a traditional society (Manushi Mar.-Apr. 2002; The Hindu 5 May 2002). According to one article, "Gujarat's agrarian social order still continues to retain its pre-modern structure and relations" (The Hindu 5 May 2002). The possible ramifications of inter-caste marriage were not specified in these articles.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

BBC. 8 August 2001. Adam Mynott. "Couple Hanged for Forbidden Love." [Accessed 15 June 2004]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. "India." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 14 June 2004]

Frontline. 30 August - 12 September 2003. Vol. 20, Issue 18. S. Viswanathan. "Killing for 'Caste Honour'." [Accessed 15 June 2004]

The Hindu. 5 May 2002. A.R. Vasavi. "Gujarat's Proclivity to Violence." [Accessed 25 June 2004]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). September 2001. "Caste Discrimination: A Global Concern." [Accessed 14 June 2004]

The Indian Express. 18 May 2004. Thane Town. "Four of Family Killed over Inter-Caste Marriage." [Accessed 14 June 2004]

_____. 29 November 2003. "Youth 'Hacked to Pieces' over Inter-Caste Marriage." [Accessed 14 June 2004]

International Religious Freedom Report 2003. 18 December 2003. "India." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 15 June 2004]

Manushi. March-April 2002. Issue 129. D.L. Sheth. "The Politics of Communal Polarisation: A Precursor to the Gujarat Carnage." [Accessed 25 June 2004]

Newindpress.com. 17 May 2004. "Father, 3 Sons Murdered over Inter-caste Marriage." [Accessed 14 June 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Hindu-Religion.net, Hindustan Times, India Law info, India Together, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Positive Atheism.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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