New Delhi, Oct 20: While India respects freedom of religion and faith, "unreasonable or discriminatory" practises cannot be held integral to it and protected, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today defending the Centre's stand on triple talaq amid a raging debate on the contentious issue.
He cited the practice of "untouchability" to assert that religious practices need to be in accord with constitutional values and emphasised that "gender justice, gender equality and gender dignity" were at the core of the Narendra Modi government's priority.
"... we respect freedom of religion and freedom of faith which are protected by the fundamental rights. But every unreasonable or discriminatory practice cannot be held integral to faith...."For instance, can anyone claim that untouchability against Dalits flows from my faith and I can practice it.Therefore, religious practices also need to be in accord with the constitutional values," Prasad told PTI in an interview.
The government had on October 7 opposed in the Supreme Court the practice of triple talaq among Muslims, maintaining that it cannot be regarded as an essential part of religion.
Responding to questions on the issue of triple talaq, the senior BJP leader said a set of women cannot lose their rights for being from a particular religion.
"Can in a secular country like India a big chunk of women be forced to live in a state of vulnerability only on the ground that they belong to a particular religion?" he questioned.
Noting that gender equality stands embedded right from the day the Constitution came into existence, the minister said development and empowerment of women were also among government's priorities.
He said the 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' programme has become a big movement and the Modi government's campaign against infanticide shows that the government takes the issue of gender equality seriously.
"You recall his famous statement on Vijay Dashmi day (in Lucknow) that for one Sita, Lanka was burnt and you kill a Sita every day in the womb... in mudra yojna, 70 per cent beneficiaries are women. Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna of the postal department has crossed more than a crore...revolutionary," Prasad said.