Madhavi Menon


Depending on one’s point of view, the Hadiya case caught the national imagination for being a shocking example of “love jihad” or a horrifying instance of the growing criminalisation of desire. Since the latter view is informed by the former, this essay looks at the ways in which the nexus of patriarchy, nationalism, and sexual phobia has built up in India over the centuries, beginning with the laws promulgated under British rule. The emphasis on “personal laws” separable by religious community, the very creation of a religious community as a singular entity, the inexorable march towards a religiously-inflected nationalism, have all gone hand in hand with increasing legal and social control over women’s bodies and queer desires. A public investment in muscular masculinity requires laws and judgments to support its agenda, and the Hadiya case takes its place in a long line of such examples of legal capitulations. Even the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Kerala High Court judgment depended on gendered and nationalistic assumptions that were every bit as regressive as what was being overturned. The law in both cases seemed unable to accommodate non-heteronormative desire except in the register of terror. Desire in the Hadiya case became terrorising and anti-national because it refused to adhere by commonplace notions of how women should behave. This essay is an account of that legal attitude to women’s desire.

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Madhavi Menon, 'Hadiya, Hinduism and Heterosexuality' (2021) 17(1) Socio-Legal Review 52

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