Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Premarital sex and live-in relationships – clearing the legal misconception!

Typing Madras High Court in the Google search today brought with it many results. Most of them with the heading that roughly meant having premarital sex would equal to being married. There was no mention of the minimum time you had to have lived together, no mention of any facts of the case and certainly no mention of the principles if any laid down by the judgment. My first thought was that of anger and frustration. I began to wonder if we were ever going to stop being regressive and maybe accept the way society was progressing and work with that? Then I felt helplessness that even if a 20 something year old wanted to make a choice to live his life a certain way he would be unable to do so for the fear of being tagged as “married” and all that came with it, especially if the relationship ended badly. Finally, I wondered – could the Madras High Court, after the only other case regarding premarital sex that created such social media frenzy was an appeal in the Supreme Court from the same court, pass a regressive judgment after the Supreme Court has passed a fairly progressive one only a few years ago?

The Supreme Court in the Khushboo Case[1] had taken a neutral and progressive stance with respect to premarital sex and live-in relationships that “the acceptance of premarital sex and live-in relationships is viewed by some as an attack on the centrality of marriage. While there can be no doubt that in India, marriage is an important social institution, we must also keep our minds open to the fact that there are certain individuals or groups who do not hold the same view. To be sure, there are some indigenous groups within our country wherein sexual relations outside the marital setting are accepted as a normal occurrence. Even in the societal mainstream, there are a significant number of people who see nothing wrong in engaging in premarital sex”

The Madras High Court case in question, in my mind is one which was dealing with maintenance a woman wanted for herself and her two children, who were born as a result of her relationship with the man and this fact had been endorsed by the man himself on the birth certificate. The man had deserted the women and took the plea that they were never married and hence he was not liable to pay any maintenance. The women on the other hand stated that they had married and she was his legitimate wife and the children his legitimate children. It is thus safe to assume that the case dealt with the scenario where the man and women were living together for a number of years and had given birth to not one but two children, clearly showing that it was consensual. It in no way was a case which was passing judgment over whether premarital sex was permitted between two heterogeneous adults and what the consequences of the same would be.

I believe the lines that created such social media frenzy among people are “...if any couple choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations," and “Wedding solemnisation was only a customary right, but not a mandatory one.” While I agree that the graphic details that one is subjected to reading the various news articles and the direct language used by the Judge to deal with the issue have attributed to the outcry, the larger section of the public (and media community) seems to have completely ignored the legal standpoint of the order passed by the Madras High Court – which being a legal order should be viewed accordingly!

Dealing with a similar fact pattern, over two decades ago the Supreme Court in S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan[2] had held that “if man and woman are living under the same roof and cohabiting for a number of years, there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Evidence Act that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them will not be illegitimate.”  Further, in 2010 the Supreme Court in D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal introduced very clearer the concept of common law marriages in India and stated that "a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ is akin to a common law marriage. Common law marriages require that although not being formally married:
(a) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.
(b) They must be of legal age to marry.
(c) They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.
(d) They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time"
According to my understanding, the Madras High Court has used the same parameters for reaching its conclusion, and the judgment seems to be in conformity with the law laid down by the Supreme Court. The hue and cry created over this is something I fail to understand since the principle is literally the law of the land since over two decades now and has been continually reinforced as well by the courts.

Another view that most people seem to be have been taking (or fearing) is that if they are with someone long enough, it can be attributed to be a marriage, without either one of them intending it to be so. Personally I don’t think that unless you are in a live-in relationship, this order or any other similar order has any bearing on your life. If however you are in a live-in relationship and are living like a married couple, then what the Supreme Court in 2010 stated has bearing on your life - that a live in relationship when continued for a long time, cannot be termed as "walk in and walkout" relationship and there is presumption of marriage under Section 114 of Evidence Act[3].

Whether we are becoming a progressive society or heading towards becoming a socially intolerant and regressive society is something we decide as a whole, and not something the courts of the country are commenting upon. However, to settle the fears, you can have premarital sex or continue to live the way you deem fit, and the Madras High Court order in no way puts into jeopardy your freedom to do so. With respect to the basic principle of being labelled married or the children you have as legitimate – the Supreme Court has stated that since 1992. For the unaware, at least this brings to fore an important principle laid down by our courts.  

[1] JT 2010 (4) SC 478
[2] AIR 1992 SC 756
[3] Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant;  AIR2010SC2933

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Resistant to change

It is no longer about a rape, or about those dying a gruesome death
Nor about a terrorist attack, or the limbs going up in the air

The people we are becoming, is like a man in a cave
Ruthless and callous, unforgiving about the need for the next prey

Scream and shout we do, revolt and riot all around
But people suffering everywhere, it’s just become a passing phase

The feeling of disgust, the gut telling us to make a change,
We sit in our comforts, condemning those for the ill fates

We talk about resistance, about the answers we need
The humanity and compassion we talk about, is all just a show, a game

No one to take the first step, to make a concrete change,
It’s all about a momentary thought, from transformation to just refrain

Maybe someday in the future, a civilization there will be
Where life is treasured, the cowards and inhumane caged.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On the foothills of change

On the foothills of change, afraid to take a step forward
Holding on to the memories, the feelings of warmth and comfort
Laughter and joy that existed is now nowhere to be found
When it becomes all about anger and revenge, it is time to move on

On the foothills of change, afraid to take a step forward
To let go of the moments and the memoirs of happiness around
The dreams of yesterday begin to come tumbling down
Hope there remains, but nothing to hold on

On the foothills of change, we must take a step forward
With hopes of freedom and confidence, of dreams abound
To embrace the chance we are being given, without scowls
Move on from the black hole and march ahead from here on

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I am a girl and I don't know what that means anymore...

I am a girl. A girl who has always lived in a metropolis environment, who has had the free reign to gain an education I aspired to have. A girl who has had the fortune to be a born into a fairly accepting and open minded family, where I had certain rules to follow but was allowed to be the person I wanted to be. A girl who has not seen the women of her family clad from head to toe but instead dressed as one felt comfortable, who has kept traditional wear as something associated with functions and festivals. A girl who has grown up in an environment where moderation is key but having a drink isn’t a crime, where the occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer has been favored by most.

I am a girl. A girl who has been allowed to have friends who are boys, who I have grown up playing sports with, who I have extensively used public transport with. A girl who was told very early on that a driver and car isn’t at her disposable and to learn how to use the local train as a daily mode of transport, to use the rickshaws and taxi’s whenever it was needed. A girl who is allowed to stay out late at night just as long as the parents know where I am headed and have given a time I will be back, who is allowed to travel by herself without a person maneuvering her every move.

I am a girl. A girl who has had the opportunity to live in a foreign land all by herself, who has taken care of rent, utilities, groceries and everything else in between. A girl who has grown up knowing that while bad people exist out there, the world is primarily made up of people like you and me. A girl who has always thought that if I keep to myself and be my own person it is my right and another has no business in it. A girl who has been allowed the same privileges her brother has, who has been given the same upbringing and who is allowed to choose a career that she deemed fit for herself.

I am a girl. A girl who is suddenly realizing that all her life she lived in a myth, was lied to and nothing is really as it seems. A girl who is now told that if she wears a sleeveless top or a short skirt she is propositioning herself, asking to be raped or molested or looked at by a random eye. A girl who is learning that just because I go out to the bar, or hold a drink, I am giving permission to all the men present there to have a roving eye because they apparently are unable to hold their testosterone or alcohol. A girl who is now aware that having guys as friends or being in a relationship with someone means that she is an open invitation to all the boys she hangs out with because if you are for one, apparently you are for all.

I am a girl. A girl who now fears opening the newspaper for being told another woman was stabbed to death because someone else’s husband thought his wife was cheating on him. A girl who is getting aware of the reality that if she breaks up with someone the guy might come by and throw acid on her face. A girl who is scared to walk the streets at night for she doesn’t know from where a group of guys may pounce on her and treat her as their treasured prey. A girl who worries writing her thoughts on a social networking site for she doesn’t know who is monitoring it anymore. A girl whose parents now worry when she leaves home and are worried till she is back in her room at night.

I am girl. And apparently that gives you the right to pass lewd remarks, to be crude, to stare, and to maybe even molest me or rape me if you think I am sending such a signal to you.

I am girl and I don’t know what that means anymore… Maybe you do?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Being Yourself

Because sometimes you have to step outside the person you've been, and remember the person you are meant to be. The person you wanted to be. The person you are.

As One Tree Hill comes to an end I decided to revisit some of the quotes and voiceovers it had. For some reason many of them have had a profound impact on me and many still continue to make me realize what my heart wants me to believe. Maybe it is because I was 15 when I first started seeing the series or maybe it is because like to find meanings in words but there is something about the above quote that always gets to me, making me realize that the fa├žade most of us wear every single day, the words we speak, the analyzing we do, the way we behave mean very little in the longer scheme of things. Because what really matters, in my opinion, is the bigger picture, the doing good to others and believing that good will come back to you, in following your heart and convincing your head that it is the way to go, in realizing that no one knows you better than yourself and what the world says is merely their version of what they want to see you as.

Maybe I am an idealist, maybe I am someone who still believes in the happily ever after, maybe I always think there is a silver lining at the end of the dark clouds but the thing I can say for sure is that nothing has given me more happiness and contentment than the days and the moments I am true to myself. The world is out there to convince us we are wrong, that we are not good enough, that we deserve to be miserable because that is what the way of life is and then there are some people who influence us, who give us confidence in our capabilities, who accept our vision and help us surge ahead. Finding the difference between these two types – the world at large and the ones who let us be us – is something only very few of us are fortunate to accomplish in our entire lifetime.

Which brings me to essence of the thought, is it really that hard to be ourselves? Is it really that difficult to accept our deepest darkest desires and work towards it? Are our dreams really that unachievable that instead of putting all our faith and belief into them we dissect them, belittle them? Is it really unacceptable to simply accept yourself? Even the mere fleeting thought of giving reality to our dreams and hopes and beliefs scares us. But how many of us have truly experienced at least one moment in our lives when we are simply our own person, without pretense, lies, confusion, disbelief and every other emotion we experience day in and day out and not felt euphoric and exhilarated in that moment? Then why are we so afraid of feeling that euphoria, that exhilaration, that contentment more often? Why are we not the person we want to be, the person we really are more often?

I have a lot of unanswered questions and it is in these questions I attempt to find a little more of who I truly am, to get the courage to embrace myself and to unapologetic about it. Someday I hope to resonate the quote as the truth of my life.