Prohibiting forceful religious conversion is the most recent reform several states across the nation are undertaking for women empowerment. The bills deem to make such forceful attempts at religious conversion illegal, thereby protecting the victims, which are women in most cases. Highlighting the importance of such a law, Kamalrukh Khan, wife of late music composer Wajid Khan, brings to fore her own personal experience of having Muslim in-laws. She states how her in-laws kept pressuring her to convert to Islam and even after her husband’s death; she continues to be harassed by them.
Kamalrukh Khan took to Instagram to share her ordeal and in a lengthy post which highlighted the “prejudice, suffering & discrimination” she faced, solely for practicing a different religion.
Kamalrukh Khan belonged to a Parsi family and had a very democratic upbringing where “independent thoughts” were encouraged. However once she got married to Wajid Khan, she was shocked to discover that “educated, thinking and independent” are ideals that are just not acceptable for a woman to have in her new family. Further, they routinely pressured her to convert to Islam and her refusal was treated as “sacrilege”.
Speaking on how this harassment affected her marital relations, Kamalrukh said, “My resistance to convert to Islam drastically widened the divide between me and my husband, making it toxic enough to destroy our relationship as husband and wife, and his ability to be a present father to our kids.” Thus, Kamalrukh’s decision to follow her religion, which is her fundamental right, had not only left her marital life in shackles but had also caused her children to suffer.
However, Kamalrukh chose her “dignity and self respect” and did not give in to the patriarchal mindset that her in-laws tried to force her into. She steadfastly held on to her own religious beliefs, something that thousands of women across the nation do not have the privilege to do.
Throughout her life, Kamalrukh emotionally suffered at the hands of her husband and in-laws. They even went as far as to threaten her with divorce. As she recalls in her own words, “I was outcastfrom my husband’s family, scare tactics to make me convert included taking me to court seeking divorce. I was devastated, felt betrayed and was emotionally drained. We never got to be a family due to his (Wajid) and his family’s religious fanaticism.”
What is even more disturbing is that the harassment continues even after Wajid’s death. The inheritance of her children has been usurped by her in-laws and they are being denied their rights.
Kamalrukh’s story is not a unique incident. This brings to light the plight of many women across the nation, unable to protest or even speak up against their in-laws. Education and privilege enable a person to stand up against harassment, and a majority of the population is neither of those. When they do not have the resources to go against their own family, it is the state which must come to their aid which is exactly why anti-conversion law is the need of the hour.
Debate surrounding the bill exposes the deep-rooted patriarchy which is prevalent in the nation, as it is mostly the women who are forced to convert their religion against their will. Women are harassed, labelled as greedy and denied basic rights to force them into following the wishes of their in-laws. Not only is this practice against their fundamental right, but also violates their innate human rights. What is further surprising is that certain states and political leaders are all too happy with the status quo and are creating hindrances to this reform. Women like Kamalrukh Khan are aplenty and it is only a national anti-conversion law which can end this vicious patriarchal mindset.