Courts Give A Nod To Live-In Relationships. But Does Our Society Agree?

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Live-in relationships in India have always been taboo, especially for women. In our society, a woman can live with a man only when she is married to him. Otherwise, she is slammed for being unsanskari and bringing shame to her entire family.

But time is changing now and so are the rules. Law is now recognising men and women’s right to life and liberty and allowing them the freedom to be in any type of relationship. Even though our country’s judges are progressive, will their judgments change the mindset of society?

Recently, Punjab & Haryana High Court protected a person’s right to have a live-in relationship by saying that every adult has the right to live with the person of their choice. It also said that if live-in couples are opposed by family, the court will provide protection to them. This is a second ruling on allowing the right to relationships of choice to unmarried people in the past few days.

In August, the Supreme Court of India challenged our definition of a “family unit”. As per the Apex Court, unmarried couples and queer couples may be an atypical manifestation of the family but they are as real as traditional families. A bench consisting of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna said, “this assumption ignores both, the many circumstances which may lead to a change in one’s familial structure, and the fact that many families do not conform to this expectation, to begin with. Familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships.

But the question that remains is, how will society treat women in live-in relationships? It is not a hidden fact that women in our society are treated as Ghar ki izzat. Even though they are the izzat, women are the ones who are oppressed, restricted and controlled in the families. They are not allowed to have male friends. Even if they do, women are not allowed to have romantic relationships with them. Sex and relationship for women are defined only in terms of marriage. It is only after marriage that a woman can talk, live and have sex with a man.

Unmarried women in our society are criticised and controlled more than unmarried men. A single woman is considered a burden and a threat looming large over her family’s social reputation. And so she needs to dispatched to her matrimonial house as soon as possible. But she is still being robbed. A single woman is losing her rights because of the restrictions and possessiveness of her family and society.

Suggested Reading: Don’t Rush Into A Marriage Because Other Women Of Your Age Are Doing So

In such a situation, it is obviously difficult for us to imagine families allowing unmarried women to stay in live-in relationships. A normal Indian family might allow a woman to have a boyfriend but will never let her stay with him for more than a few hours, let alone days. The family will be more concerned about the virginity of the daughter than her happiness in staying in a particular type of relationship. This idea of valuing a women’s virginity over her happiness is very common in our society.

So how are the courts’ rulings helping women? Is it enough for courts to just pass judgment in favour of live-in relationships? Is it enough to legalise domestic partnerships or live-in relationships in society? Of course not, but this is indeed an encouraging start.

There are many things that are legal in our society and still frowned upon and many things that are illegal and still committed without any fear. The problem here is that law doesn’t govern our country, social norms do. If something is not acceptable to the patriarchal mindset of society, it cannot happen despite being legal. Society is more vigilant about restricting women to exercise their legal rights than stopping men from committing illegal deeds. So passing a judgment in favour of women will never be enough to bring a change. Courts and governments will have to put in extra effort to ensure that the law and order are maintained in society. They will have to spread awareness about women’s rights, make sure every woman is free and take strict action against those who curb their freedom.

Views expressed are the author’s own.