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November 24, 2010 / subramanyam

Live-in’s and Legality


An article I wrote almost  1 and 1/2 years ago ,was one of the best acknowledged ones back then.

          Live-in relationships or cohabitation is a concept which originated in the western world somewhere in the late 60’s and early 70’s where an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship. While live-in’s have been on a rise in the west for quite some time ,we are also witnessing that the number of “unmarried couples living-in” is increasing in India as well. 

          There are various reasons why partners would want to live together , some wish to check if both of them are compatible before tying a legal knot , some wish to stay single due to financial reasons, for some it’s a way of rebelling against the organized religion and the practice of marriage. 

          The law traditionally has been biased in favor of marriage. Public policy supports marriage as necessary to the stability of the family, the basic societal unit. To preserve and encourage marriage, the law reserves many rights and privileges to married persons. Cohabitation carries none of those rights and privileges. 

          In what is being termed as a progressive move, the Maharashtra government recently proposed an amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that would give a woman in a live-in relationship the right to seek maintenance post desertion. This proposal is pending with the central government as it needs the nod  of the central Government to become a law.           

          The central Government was in fact seeking recommendations from all the state governments in order to alter the CrPC and protecting the rights of the people involved. The Malimath committee was set up to record and make these recommendations. Maharashtra was the only state to respond to this.As per the Malimath Committee recommendations, the state government, therefore, wants the CrPC to be amended so that the word ‘wife’ under Section 125 includes a woman living with a man like his wife for a “reasonably long period”. This will ensure that these women are entitled to alimony. 

          Some women organizations say this is the first step in helping women who have been taken for a ride by men, it also comes with its own negatives. The state government has said nothing about what’s a “reasonable period “. The amount of time which becomes a reasonable period needs to be specified before this proposal becomes a law and the interests of the women involved are protected. However nothing is again being spoken about people who can be in more than one relationship. 

          Having thrown enough light on the positive side of it, let’s look at what the opponents of “legalizing live-in”(like me) have got to say. Marriage and family life are two stepping-stones on which most of the civilizations on this earth progressed, one of the very reasons why Indian society is so strong , why Indian students are strong emotionally is due to the strong family system we have , the moment you legalize live-in you are actually hitting the core strength of this civilization. The core pillar called marriage is getting affected. 

          Marriage makes the couple of share everything, you have a legal right on the person with whom you have tied the knot ,It gives more security to both the partners and also discourages polygamy. A recent survey in England conducted by the University of Warwick carried out a study of 9,704 married people at the university in 2005.The study revealed that married people were deriving happiness from each other’s happiness unlike those who were just living together. 

          The institution of Marriage encourages spouses to share their happiness and sorrows with each other and thus helps them when either of them is passing through a tough time. 

           One reason why marriage is being dreaded and people are looking for other ways of relationships is the presence of an extended family and the responsibilities that you are supposed to bear once you get married. for example one friend of mine with asks “on a weekend or on a festival day , I would like to get out to the necklace road(a popular place in Hyderabad)and relax , but if I am married I’ll have a wife, I need to go shopping , visit her parents and do many things I do not like at all. I will not have any of these issues if I am either single or if I am in a live in “. 

          But then my question is are we supporting those cowards and extremely “I, Me, Myself” people by legalizing live-ins. 

         Also the other argument I have is about our parents , with a live-in you are actually shutting down the doors on your old parents. Who is going to take care of them in their old age.  How many live-in couples are ready to have their parents with them? (One reason we dread marriage is in-laws) ok, even if the unmarried live-in couple is ready to live with the parents how many parents would live with them? 

          Don’t you think we need to think about them……..? 

          One more concern is how do you authenticate that you are the only live-in partner to your live in partner, tomorrow you discover he/she is in a live-in with another person .what are you going to do? Well one solution is that you will have a written agreement of live-in relationship, but then how different is it from a marriage? 

          Last but not the least, what is the message we are sending to our next generation, how do you think they are going to take all this. How are you going to handle a situation tomorrow when your kid is probably in class V or class Vi and you both decide to break up? You might be able to cope up, but what about that kid ? How will he/she be happy? Is there clarity on the ownership rules? Now when you yourself change partners on compatibility issues how do you tell them that infidelity and other things are wrong? We took the advantage of a proper parenting, why not our kids take that advantage tomorrow? 

          Live-in relationships are definitely more glamorous and easy but marriage has its advantages as well. I believe cohabitation has all of the headaches of marriage without any of the benefits,I would oppose the move of legalizing Live-ins .But for many people living-in is a matter of personal choice, if someone really believes in it let them have it. It is legal for unmarried people to live together; no law in India  objects them from being so. But just for the sake of them we cannot legalize that practice of live-in’s and throw it on the system.

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