Majority of the religions would agree that marriage is believed to be a sacred bond and a union of two souls, at least for one life time. However, in practicality it is a bond not only between two hearts or two bodies, it a bond involving two families. Marriage means responsibility, not only of the person you are married to but also of the people who are related and attached to him/her.
Often this weight of responsibility is followed by revelations and changes regarding your partner. In some cases these changes are accepted as the bitter truth of marriage, but in some it is not and it may even lead to separation or a very unhealthy burdensome relationship.
This is where live-in relationships step in. Though the concept does not happen to be a bolt from the blue to the Indian audience, it still manages to grab a seat in the ‘TABOO” list. Live-in relationships are more liberal and considered as moral degradation or deviation from culture. It is just that the millennial generations believe in keeping self-comfort before anything else.
Some may say that this is a western concept and is only seen in cities where people are least bothered or oblivious to Indian values. Let me tell you that according to a survey conducted in the ‘non-metropolitan zone‘ of India 36% females and 52% males said they would want to try out a live-in relationship but cannot due to some reasons.
Often referred to as “paap“, “haram” or “sin“, the concept has been given due recognition even by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and defined as-
“A man and women cohabiting with free will for a considerable period as though they are married”
That is they are …almost…married.
Inspite of of this acknowledgement by the SC there is no legal structure in place for problems arising from such relationships. One of the reasons being that it is unacceptable to society and is considered to hurt some sentiments. There is actually a vicious cycle of causes which lead to one another and give birth to more causes.
Like, live-in was never acceptable to society so no religion speaks about it, as all our marriage laws and family laws are segregated religion-wise these relationships don’t have space in them, this lack of legal structure construes them as undefined and furthermore insecure and then again the present society does not welcome them.
Live-in falls under the grey area, where the commitment is not as same as that of a wed-lock but the issues arising are of identical nature. Sometimes when two people living together for a period under the same roof, realise that they are not compatible enough to share a life time together but because they are not married they can easily part ways it’s undoubtedly easier than breaking something as holy and sacred as a marriage.
However, in such a case one of the partners maybe financially dependent on the other and dissolution of such an arrangement may lead to economic instability. As there is no provision for maintainance under family law such disputes as adjudicated in the morals and ethics courts on every roundabout than actual law enforcing agencies.
This not only labels these relationships as unstable, unprotected and casual but also hands the independent partner the whip and the power to dissolve them easily.
In Ajay Bharadwaj V. Jyotsana‘s case Hon’ble Supreme Court said that as children were born out of a live in relationship it may be assumed that the couple were on their way to reach permanency.
The children born out of this association have a place in law which brings us back to our vicious cycle of causes, they are recognised and have their rights in place because our religion based laws have laws for illegitimate children as well. 70% of the illegitimate children in India are born out of adulterous engagements which is an offence according to the Indian penal code. Obviously this is because the child is nowhere at fault in is and should not suffer.
On the other hand, a person separated from their live-in partners cannot look at any provision for maintainance, though their relationship holds legal sanctity upheld by the apex court.
Some steps have been taken to tackle the grievance of such people, especially women. The domestic violence act 2005, awards maintainance to a woman even if she is not married but cohabiting with a man according to the definition, secondly the Gujrat legislature has a contract for live-in relationships called the ‘Maitri Karaar‘ or the ‘bond of friendship‘. However these laws cover a pond where there is a sea which isn’t talked about, the former needs domestic violence to have been taken place and the later does not give any share to the partners in each other’s wealth.
Many raised eyebrows may ask that if a maintainance law is enacted then what would distinguish live in relationships and marriages. Your concern is appreciated. The focal point as well as the sentiments attached to both are completely different. Plus, maintainance is not to tie up a person to the relationship but to help the partner who is in need, at least financially.
If we wish to build a more liberal and broad-viewed society we also need to make simultaneous or rather prospective laws for new scenarios. As,
FLEXIBILITY IS OXYGEN TO LIBERALISM.