Young people are increasingly choosing cohabitation as a means of evaluating their compatibility before getting married. The couples equally contribute to the same while they enjoy the sexual romance, which helps avoid financial and other unplanned exposures when living together with partners of the opposite sex. This essay focuses on the benefits, drawbacks, and similarities between cohabitation and marriage, as well as the implications for the partners and any children involved.
Comparing the two reveals that marriage, as opposed to cohabitation, fosters more significant levels of social and religious activity and a longer-lasting acceptance of accountability and commitment. Young adults with less education and wealth, those who are less religious and less traditional, as well as others, are more likely to cohabit.
These people mostly cohabitate to test whether they are suitable for marriage, to test their compatibility, for financial benefit, out of a lack of courage to get married, and to facilitate an easier breakup should any problems that call for a divorce surface.
An unmarried couple who lives together for an extended period in a relationship comparable to marriage but without the holy thread of union between them is said to be in a live-in relationship. Only couples live together in cohabitation, but they behave as husband and wife.
As a result of their close relationship and shared importance to humanity, society and its laws must change together with culture for a community to continue to advance without being hindered by antiquated laws.
In India, where only marriage is regarded as a sacred bond between a couple and is assumed to be a license for having sexual relations, various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India have timely considered a variety of aspects of live-in relationships and have attempted to understand and explain the phenomenon.
There is no specific legislation regarding live-in relationships in the Indian legal system. Still, Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 “expresses some mild concern for the idea and states that a live-in relationship is included in a domestic relationship.” The 2005 Act’s Section 2 (q) provides “protection for women who live with an individual”.
Marriage and live in
Marriage- Since the Vedic culture, marriage has been revered in India as a sacred union. In India, marriages happen in accordance with the Special Marriage Act’s requirements or the personal law of the parties’ respective religions. According to the law, marriage is a contract between a man and a woman in which the two promise to support and live together. Marriage as a concept has evolved over time. After the formal ceremony, marriage is typically regarded as one of the fundamental civil rights. It has legal significance and entails a number of obligations and responsibilities regarding property inheritance, succession, and other issues. As a result, marriage contains all of the legal requirements of tradition, exposure, and selection, as well as the legal effects that flow from that relationship.
Live-In- Many Western nations have a high prevalence of live-in relationships. The definition of a live-in relationship is a living arrangement in which unmarried partners cohabitate to maintain a long-term connection that is comparable to marriage. The fundamental tenet of a live-in relationship is that the prospective partners want to gauge their compatibility before committing. Without solemnising marriage, a live-in relationship is a de facto union in which a couple sleeps in the same room.
Common law marriages, informal weddings, marriages of convenience, considered marriages, and other names for this non-marital partnership are used in the West. Even though there is no legally recognized wedding ceremony, civil marriage contract, or civil registry registration, it is a type of interpersonal status lawfully recognized as a marriage in some jurisdictions. The majority of live-in partnerships take place in large cities. In much of India, made up of towns and villages, such a practice is still considered taboo. Due to several factors, including a lack of tolerance and commitment, there is a progressive transition from the sacrament of arranged marriages to love marriages and finally to live-in relationships.
Live-in-relationship is not an offence
According to the Apex Court’s rulings, if a man and a woman have been living together for a long time and have children, the judiciary will presume that they are married, and the same rules apply to them and their relationship. In Payal Sharma v. Nari Niketan, the Allahabad High Court recognized the idea of a live-in relationship.
The bench, made up of Justices M. Katju and R.B. Misra stated, “In our opinion, a man and a woman can live together even without getting married if they wish to. Although society may view this as immoral, it is not against the law. There is a distinction between morality and the law. In the case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & the opinion of the Supreme Court has further provided a positive impetus to live-in- relationships. The case of the prosecution was that the comment of the actress Khushboo allegedly endorsing premarital sex would adversely affect the moral fabric of society.
A three judges bench composed of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice Deepak Verma, and Justice B.S. Chauhan observed, “When two adult people want to live together, what is the offence? Does it amount to an offence? Living together is not an offence. It cannot be an offence”. The court further said, “Please tell us what is the offence and under which section. Living together is a right to life”, referring to the right to life guaranteed under Article 21. However, this position is not binding. The Delhi High Court, in another case, observed that a live-in relationship is a walk-in and walk-out relationship.
Justice S.N. Dhingra noted, “There are no legal strings attached to this relationship, nor does this relationship create any legal bond between the partners.” The court further added, “People who choose to have relationships cannot complain of infidelity or immorality as live-in-relationships are also known to have been between a married man and unmarried woman or vice-versa” The Indian courts have time again tried to intercede in matters relating to live-in-relationship and opened the gates of hope for the people. It is also mentioned that there was no law against premarital sex or live-in relationships.
The right to life and personal freedom is guaranteed as a fundamental right by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. In Ramdev Food Products (P) Ltd. v. ArvindbhaiRambhai Patel, the court stated that a live-in relationship between two people who are not legally married is not a crime. Live-in relationships are permitted in India.
Issues and challenges of live-in relationship
Although the live-in relationship has been legalised and many judgments favour it, even now, many issues need a pivotal discourse. Some of the most complex grey areas that still need to be addressed amicably are discussed below:
- Societal and moral acceptance- Even if live-in relationships are permitted, they are frowned upon and considered morally and ethically unacceptable in Indian society. Indian society is dubious of live-in relationships; therefore, couples frequently deal with various issues, including rejection from family, difficulty finding a rental property, rejection from society, negativity at work, etc.
- Official Documents- In India, there is still no category for a live-in relationship on any official paperwork. The couple encounters issues with shared bank accounts, nominee names, insurance, visas, etc.
- Cultural Issues- India is known for its diverse culture and religion. The impact of globalisation on human relations in our country has been unprecedented. The formerly dominant family ties and values are witnessing rampant changes. Every religion has its perspective towards a live-in relationship. Antireligion marriage is still a complicated issue and is only allowed under the Special Marriage Act of 1955. A live-in relationship is a step ahead, and Hinduism and Islam do not accept the concept, although Christianity somehow accepts it. In India, beliefs, customs, usages, and culture have a significant impact on people’s mindset (Avantika Sarkar 2015). Subsequently, acceptance of new norms depends upon the prominence of their belief rather than any law. The emphasis must be given to addressing the complications of antireligion live-in relationship, which is still a sensitive issue.
- LGBT Couple- Most of the time, society is uninterested in helping the LGBT community and cannot acknowledge their connection. Even in-laws and court rulings regarding live-in relationships, no provision is made for or discussion of LGBT couples. Even though the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to decriminalize consensual same-sex activity, India does not recognize same-sex marriage or live-in relationships. There is still no marriage law for the LGBT community in the Indian legal system, notwithstanding the recent liberal interpretation by the honourable Courts.
- Property rights related to antireligion and the LGBT community- Inheritance and property rights are the main issues in live-in relationships. Presently, only Hindu law grants property rights to a child born into a live-in relationship, and even then, only to self-acquired property, not inherited property. Muslim law has a system in place for allocating property, and as of this writing, no attempts have been made to start a debate about it timely. Regarding both property rights and the LGBT community, there is no provision. The live-in partner of an LGBT couple cannot be included in a will or be gifted property. Without adequately addressing such impending problems and enacting the necessary regulations, there may be potential for deception and fraud, as well as the possibility of domestic violence.
- Gender Biassed- The PWDVA of 2005 recognizes a woman who has been living with a man for an extended period as a wife, and numerous provisions, such as property and maintenance, are also to her benefit. Unfortunately, it makes no provisions for LGBT couples or males. It has been noted that men are frequently accused of sexual assault and taking advantage of a woman by promising a phony marriage. If it is in conflict, there is no more robust provision on behalf of men. Similarly, there is no provision for same-sex partners to be sexually abused. By codifying separate laws on a live-in relationship, these delicate concerns about intimate relationships must be adequately highlighted.
Why is marriage better than cohabitation?
Marriage is a long-term acceptance of responsibility where the spouses agree to be devoted to one another regardless of the terms and benefits, as opposed to cohabitation. This encourages confidence and personal safety. The lovers regard their sexual relationship as exclusive and grow more devoted. Children develop healthy emotional relationships since their parents are unlikely to divorce.
A child who lives without either parent is also more likely to experience maltreatment due to their single parent’s alternative relationship. They might start acting out and perform poorly in school, which could have a long-term detrimental impact on their lives. Additionally, married couples have better financial situations than those who live together since they always adhere to a shared spending budget.
In addition, those who are not married frequently may not worry about health difficulties in a relationship and, as a result, may be more susceptible to contracting diseases. Compared to married couples, they are more vulnerable to death. Married people have strong social ties to their neighbours and their churches, which is essential for (emotional) support. Non-married partners are not permitted to use this privilege.
Compared to cohabiting spouses, essential elements of marriage, like love and commitment, increase relationship happiness and enjoyment. Although cohabiting partners may engage in sex as frequently as they like, their lack of commitment to and concern for one another may make it less pleasurable because they are even more likely to be exposed to infections due to their health issues.
Respect for human rights is an essential component of a democratic system in a nation like India. Every person is free to select the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with and marry to start a family. Regardless of its difficulties, marriage is meant to foster a sense of commitment. Although a union does not ensure eternal bliss, it does offer safety and legal status in society. Individual rights and privacy are at stake as the live-in relationship situation changes. Even if there may not be many people who favour this practice, it is genuinely feared that someday people may choose it over traditional marriage.
In the absence of legislation, India’s judiciary has made a significant contribution through its expertise in comprehending the issues associated with live-in relationships and has maintained a neutral stance. Although live-in relationships may appear entirely novel and alluring, many complex issues are likely to occur. Encouraging live-in relationships under the current conditions will lead to problems like bigamy and multiple-partner relationships, which will rip apart our nation’s social fabric. The women in these relationships do not have the status of wives and do not have societal respect or sanctity. Due to the lack of legislation, women will be more likely to be exploited.
One study found that because couples typically choose not to have children, the likelihood of their birth is relatively low. Contrarily, couples who have kids but don’t stay together will harm the interests of the kids since they won’t receive the love and attention they need from their parents. Another major problem is the rise in litigation over issues like child custody, support, and inheritance. Society must adapt to the times as they change, but in the name of modernization, it should not compromise with the moral standards and traditions of the society. Therefore, it is imperative to inform and educate the current generation about the value of marriage and family. This is only feasible if the parents respect their children’s emotions and goals and allow them to choose their spouse.
This article has been contributed by ANSHIKA JINDAL,a student at B.A.LL.B, IXth Semester from Noida International University.
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