For most modern-day millennials, live-in relationships are a way to test the waters before you dive into all the paperwork that declares you bound to one person for life. But the Rajasthan Human Rights Commission in India doesn’t quite agree. Instead, they believe that women should specifically be kept away from live-in relationships because apparently it “goes against human rights”. They also think a woman engaged in one is like a “concubine”, a sexist term historically used for a woman kept by a man, with the woman having a lower status than that of his wife.
“It is the responsibility of the government and human rights organisations to protect women from the harms of live-in relationship through intensive awareness campaigns,” stated an order issued by the commission’s chairperson Justice Prakash Tatia and member Justice Mahesh Chand Sharma, a former High Court judge.
While once frowned upon in Indian society, people are now way more open to the idea of couples living together, even if they aren’t officially married. The Supreme Court now has multiple distinct definitions for domestic cohabitation, including recognising an unmarried couple that is voluntarily cohabiting, as long as both are of legal age to marry and acknowledge their relationship to be akin to spouses in society. The court has even given legal rights to people in long-term live-in relationships to seek maintenance from their partners, protect children born out of such relationships and punish domestic violence. However, Justice Sharma referred to several previous rulings by the court to argue that such "animalistic lives are against the basic rights enshrined in the constitution and against their (women's) human rights". He insisted that there was an urgent need to stop couples from moving in together and that it was the government’s duty to discourage them. This coming from a guy who, two years ago, said that peacocks don’t have sex but instead, get pregnant by swallowing their partner's tears, making them as “pious” as cows, which he said should be made the country’s national animal.
Anyway, the commission wants that, “The law should specify eligibility of partners; how such relationships will be known to people at large; procedure of registration; and how these relationships can be ended after a mandatory counselling,” as specified in their order.
However, former chairperson of women rights commission Lad Kumari Jain told Hindustan Times that raising awareness against live-in relationships “is a wrong move since it is the personal choice of partners in such relationships”, and cannot be criminalised since “even the Supreme Court grants right to the women partner in live-in relationships under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.”
While the commission may mean well, their notions are too narrow-minded for a society that is slowly crawling out of its regressive shell when it comes to sex and relationships. And especially given that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t even have the legal right to get married in our country, it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes, people have no choice but to settle for a live-in relationship.
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