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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

No Strings Attached! Really?


Encouraging live-ins would only call for more trouble for women if not backed up by a law
AMIR HOSSAIN | Issue Dated: December 6, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Cohabitation |

India has always been applauded across the globe for its rich culture, tradition usages, customs etc. Like every other custom, marriages too are considered sacred here. In fact, many consider the practice a central fabric of Indian society, reinforcing the social, economic, geographic, and the historic significance of India. But with changing times, Indians have started following the Western culture and some concepts have even blended well. However, the concept like live-in relationship or Cohabitation (a relationship where two persons of opposite sex live together as husband and wife without getting married) is still not digestible to a traditional mindset. As such the legality of the concept has been debated time and again, both inside and outside the Court of Justice.

Interestingly, the issue is hogging the limelight once again. Reason: In a landmark judgement (on November 29, 2013), a bench of Supreme Court justices K. S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose said that “Live-in or marriage-like relationship is neither a crime nor a sin though socially unacceptable in this country.”

Cohabitation is allowed and legal in several countries across the globe. In fact, the concept has been gaining massive popularity among youth abroad. For instance, the US Census Bureau reported that 8.05 million couples were cohabiting couples in US in 2013 compared to just 439,000 such couples in 1960. Even Europe isn’t far behind. In fact, 39.5% of all births in 28 EU nations (Iceland - 65%, France - 55.8%, Sweden - 54.3%, Belgium - 50% and UK - 47.3%) were outside of marriages.  The said number was 17.4% in 1990. Although there’s no official figure as to how many cohabiting couples are there in India, the live-in relationship is certainly no more a taboo for the new Indian generation. In fact, the latest Supreme Court verdict only takes its legality to a next level in India.

No doubt, there have been various orders by the Supreme Court and the high courts across the country that have in the past taken a fairly progressive view of live-in relationships (S. Khushboo Vs. Kanniammal & Anr., Lata Singh Vs. State of U.P. & Anr., Madan Mohan Singh & Ors v. Rajni Kant & Anr., Alok Kumar v. State & Anr.), but there was no proper law to protect women and children born out of such relationships. However, this time, the apex court has framed guidelines for bringing live-in relationship within the expression ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ for protection of women from Domestic Violence Act. Moreover, it has asked Parliament “to ponder over these issues, bring in proper legislation, so that women and the children, born out of such relationships be protected, though those types of relationship might not be a relationship in the nature of a marriage.”

Certainly it’s a “landmark judgement”, but then exploitation of women is a very common phenomenon in India. In fact, 2,28,650 and 2,44,270 incidents of crime against women (both under IPC and SLL) were reported in the country during 2011 and 2012 respectively. Encouraging live-in relationships under such circumstances would only call for more trouble if not backed up by a proper law. Hence, the lawmakers need to fast attach “Strings” to live-ins if they really want these “No Strings” to work in India.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017