India's ruling Hindu nationalist party approved legislation in the country's most populous state on Tuesday that means anyone who uses marriage to force someone to change religion will face a prison term of up to 10 years.
Uttar Pradesh is the first state in the country to bring in such a law and comes after a campaign by hardline Hindu groups against some interfaith marriages.
The so-called "love jihad" marriages supposedly involve Muslim men luring Hindu women away from their religion before wedding them.
BJP accused of fanning the flames
Critics said the new legislation approved by the cabinet of Uttar Pradesh state, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was aimed at further alienating India's 170 million Muslims by making them appear as aggressors plotting to weaken Hindu women. Modi and the BJP have been accused of having an anti-Muslim agenda.
Under the new decree, a man and woman belonging to different religions will have to give two months' notice to the district magistrate before they get married. The couple will only then be allowed to tie the knot on the proviso there are no objections.
Hindus makes up 80% of India's 1.3 billion population, while Muslims account for around 14%. Hardline groups have recently stepped up a campaign for a Hindu-first India.
In October, jewelry brand Tanishq dropped a television commercial featuring a Hindu-Muslim family celebrating a baby shower, after criticism from Hindu nationalists and the ruling BJP. They said the advertisement promoted "love jihad."
jsi/aw (AP, Reuters)