The UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of heterosexual civil partnerships recently. According to a BBC report, the court said the Civil Partnership Act 2004 – which only applies to same-sex couples – is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. For those who don’t know, civil partnerships allow legal and financial protection for both parties if the relationship ends. While same-sex couples had the choice between marriage and civil partnerships since 2014, the same was not extended to heterosexual couples. But things are about change with the Supreme Court ruling that current law was discriminatory and incompatible with the rights of heterosexual couples.
But what does this ruling mean for the institution of marriage?
When men and women today want partnerships based on the virtues of equality, it seems like this ruling is like another nail in the coffin of matrimony.
For couples today, marriage is more of a traditional burden on their liberal lives, than a union of two individuals. This relationship not only comes with tons of social expectations, it has a set of pre-decided roles for each gender. Perhaps it is this regressive ideology, which has disillusioned couples. Once your relationship gets the tag of a marriage, then you are expected to embrace the roles which come with it.
The husband must be the primary breadwinner and the decision maker in a household. While the wife must be willing to sacrifice everything, from her career to her individual identity. (By embracing the husband’s name, address and even his preferences.) There is little or no place for those who challenge social dictates. Men who don’t want to earn a bigger pay-check and stay back at home with the kids or women who want tax-benefits but not the surname, or the religious and cultural baggage which mostly comes with a marriage.
But mostly, a civil partnership appeals to people who believe that marriage and gender equality rarely go hand in hand. And they are not far from the truth. Our roles, as a husband or wife is so defined and restrictive, that even a slight deviation from them either hurts our social image or ends up damaging our relationship.
Can civil partnership become a hit in our wedding obsessed country?
It would hit the wedding industry badly if couples start opting for a more practical alliance over marriage. Ours is a country where marriage is more traditional and cultural than anywhere in the world. It is not limited to the micro-alliance of two people. It is an amalgamation of two families. Most youth in India still opt for the age-old arranged marriage, fixed with the consent from parents and extended families. This sort of alliance has become our habit over generations. The adjustments and gendered roles now come naturally to us. Hence, instead of civil partnerships, Indians would rather work on modernising the institution of marriage.
The level of involvement which parents and families have in Indian marriages will mean that couples will have to enter civil partnerships with each other’s entire clan.
At crux for this desire for entering into civil partnerships, instead of a marriage, lie the desires to circumvent religious and social baggage of the institution. It is about breaking the very cast which it puts a couple in, so that they can set their own rules. I am not sure Indians are just yet ready for that. Perhaps when we rid our society completely of patriarchy. When both men and women in our society get tired of playing by the rules and desire equality in all aspects of a relationship, only then will we be ready for it. As of now, let us watch how the west deals with this modern retelling of commitment and union.
Picture Credit: indiiatcnews.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.