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Live-in relationships (with strings attached)

A guess as to the number of such relationships in India would be truly hazardous. How would one count? How would one recognize, to start counting? So let’s leave aside statistics and look at merits and demerits of the ongoing debate on live-in relationships.

We can start with; why does one get into one? The most obvious reason would be to avoid obligations of marriage either permanently or till such time as one is ready to wed but cannot, due to various circumstances, economic and social. I believe we have really no way of judging which is which.

In India where family values count for much and where also family elders remain  concerned for their youngsters’ choices in life, it has generally come to be seen by youth as a relief to “break free” of such a circle. Naturally most people breaking free would not want to get into fresh obligations such as taking care of a spouse. They will choose to live-in.

My own stance is to oppose the tendency to circumvent the sacred institution of marriage. A marriage ensures the coming to life of a family and the family is the bedrock of a stable society. So, the spate of rulings starting with the recommendations of the Justice Shri Malimath committee in 2003 with respect to obligations within a live-in arrangement makes me want to think of these as deterrents to such an arrangement rather than as rulings that seek to legitimize them.

As expected, the situation is not ideal.  Our courts are taking very tentative steps and have limited themselves to child rights (have the same rights as one born of wedlock) and dowry (male partners will attract similar penalties as husbands, on complaints of harassment from their female partners).

As for reactions from Hindu Conservatives, Surender Jain, spokesman of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad said: “It will be bad for India to import these western ideas. We have seen in the west it leads to the breakdown of the family. In India it will see bigamy and prostitution rise.”

All-though opposed to such relationships, I cannot buy into Shri Jain’s pessimism. Like I said earlier on, the rulings act more as a deterrent rather than encouraging of such behavior. I would be very surprised if  “free-will” Liberals supported such legal intrusions. Still I see some loop holes that need to be addressed.

a. Rather than separate incidence-related rulings, we need a comprehensive and overt deterrent law. 

b. We need a mechanism where such “unions” get recorded but which will not be regarded on par with marriage registrations. A good procedure would be to have them recorded and databased at the local police station and obtain an acknowledgement thereof – Such a record will strongly discourage those already wedded spouses from getting into parallel and convenient live-in arrangements.


Justice Shri Malimath Committee recommendations

(115) Definition of the word “wife” in section 125 of the Code be amended to include a woman who was living with the man like his wife for a reasonably long period.

(116) Section 494 of the IPC be suitably amended to the effect that if the man and woman were living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period the man shall be deemed to have married the woman according to the customary rites of either party.

Legitimizing the status of the child

Harassment penalties

Shri. Surendra Jain’s statement

– Namaste


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