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Legalising live-in relationships

October 16, 2008

Two proposed changes in our laws could change Indian society forever. One is the the law criminalizing  homosexualtiy which has been with us since British Rule. It’s good to hear that it might finally be scrapped. Today the government will argue the case in the High Court.

The second proposal, to make maintenance necessary for a woman abandoned after a steady live-in relationship, has been mulled over for some time now and is  more controversial. Last year women in live-in relationships were legally protected under the domestic violence act and in January 2008, the Supreme Court validated long-term live-in relationships as “marriages”. I am not sure what that is supposed to mean, but I think it means that the Supreme Court is taking a moral stand as  bigamy is illegal in India (except for Muslims) and there is certainly no proposal to make bigamy legal.

Since then the National Commission for Women (NCW) has “sought a change in the definition of ‘wife’ which deals with maintenance” and has recommended that women in live-in relationships “be entitled to maintenance if the man deserts her”.

And now, in Maharashtra at least, the state cabinet has given “its green signal to protect the pecuniary interests of the other woman. If the Centre okays this proposal, this will become law. There is bound to be a cascading effect on other states.

There has been outrage against this proposal as it is thought to be inimical to women, although the intention is just the opposite. Some believe that it will encourage people to go in for such relationships as there will be a legal sanction. The CWC (Child & Women’s Welfare) on the other hand feels that it will protect the financial interests of abandoned women.

About the protests against this new proposed law, I am not sure what the protesters are against…live-in relationships from the moral point of view or live-in relationships from the angle of financial damage caused to the legal wife. I suspect the outrage is against both, although I think it is important to make a distinction between the two.

Today more and more couples from the upper classes are choosing to live without marriage. Usually such couples are both single, working, and are financially independent. The fact that they are choosing to live without marriage  usually means that they have chosen to defy society and if a relationship like this breaks up it is unlikely that the woman will be in dire straits. I do not think that an educated, financially independent woman needs financial protection in case she is ditched, although she certainly needs acceptance from society, during and after such a relationship. But if the protesters feel that the proposed law will encourage these relationships and are outraged, well, I don’t have much sympathy with this point of view.

The second type of live-in relationship is when a man keeps two or more “wives”. This was a common practice in ancient times but today these relationships have gone underground. In many such cases all the “wives” are financially dependent on the man. It is one thing for a financially independent woman to go in for a live-in relationship (whether as a second woman or first), and quite another for a financially dependent woman to do so. I feel sorry for any woman who has got into a second “marriage” or live-in relationship thinking that it could well be a permanent arrangement…but when it comes to bestowing on her financial rights I am not comfortable with it.

I would prefer it if the court decides these incidents of abandonment on a case-to-case basis because some women deserve maintenance if they are thrown out after living with a man for years. There have been cases where the courts have ruled in favour of the other woman when it comes to maintenance and I have no discomfort with that. To make a blanket law is another matter.

There are arguments that this proposed law could be misused. Law experts have said that such a law “would enable the ‘mistress’ to get the status of a legally married wife in all matters, including share in property, inheritance, maintenance”. This is certainly not the intention of the law and in fact it the proposed law has a good intention – to help thousands of financially dependent abandoned women.

So while this law may be “revolutionary” and attempts to get live-in relationships out of the closet, it could cause harm to the legal wife. I have not heard of any other country in the world which makes bigamy illegal but allows for maintenance of a live in partner.

There is another criticism of this proposal – that it will encourage men to stray and will overall encourage live-in relationships as it gives a legal stamp of approval to the whole thing. Well, I think the only worry would be in those cases where men go in for a second “wife.” Will the law affect a man’s behavior when it comes to mistresses? Well, men have been keeping them from the beginning of time and will continue to do so, regardless of the law.

But I wonder if such a law could make a man think twice about living with a woman as his wife because now he would have to pay for her upkeep even after they break up? Just as men might hesitate to jump into marriage knowing the financial commitment involved, they might think twice before committing themselves to a long-term “live-in” relationship if they have to support the woman (and children). So while I am against such a law, I cannot help but wonder if such a law will discourage men from keeping mistresses or getting into long term live-in relationships? If it is so, it is certainly good for the first wife if there is one, but it is hard to decide whether indeed there will be such an effect. Therefore I decided to use a new feature on wordpress to ask your views. It’s a poll.

(Photos are copyrighted to me)

Related Reading: More posts of Love on this blog

54 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2008 9:52 am

    Well, it certainly will not deter men from keeping mistresses.. The law certainly might help live-in people, like moi, to tackle hassles like residence where societies ask for marriage certificates n all…

    If a man has to keep a mistress, he will despite a million laws… The basic fear of society and values is enough to stop him to take this step..otherwise nothing can…. Its like a extreme end of a rope..either this way or that way…

    Making 2 different parts like we have in our Indian Penal Code i.e. IPC XXX (a) and IPC XXX (b) might be a solution…. (a) when both the partners are single or divorced.. or (b) when either one is married then the law is void… may be.. but then I would be accused to partiality.. aint I????

    Rashmi, thanks! I have changed the poll question slightly after reading your comment as I realised that I wanted to know whether it will discourage live-in relationships, not infidelity (mistresses). And yes, you are right, this will certainly make things more respectable for two consenting adults. I think it is worth debating this law further and see what safeguards can be put in place if this law is to be passed. – Nita.

  2. October 16, 2008 10:16 am

    I have always been pro legalization of live in relationship, by legalization I do not think considering it as a marriage makes sense, I think there is a blurred line in my mind when I try to defrentiate between a legal spouse and a live in partner. One very interesting thing you bring out is that this could well be on the lines of legalizing bigamy. It would be interesting to find out the laws in other countries regarding this. May be with all these legal changes, the concept of live in might dwindle a bit.
    As a common man, what amuses me is the social protocol, should one really worry so much before deciding to stay with a person whom you want to stay with?. I do agree that there are some social and moral responsiblities, more than all this I would say both the individuals have personal and humane responsibilities towards one other, if they don’t I am sure they would never agree to live-in at the first place.

    I would not term “second type” of live-in relationship as a live in relationship, may be its a convinient way of getting away with polygamy

    I am some how not so sure about your last paragraph, that men have been keeping mistresses for long and will continue to do so, I guess the same argument holds true to women as well, may be it does not come to light so much as that of men.

    Rambler, well, most people are saying its like bigamy so that is not an original thought of mine. But no, as far as I know (I did try to find out from the net) no country which disallows bigamy, allows for maintenance of live-in partner. But if any reader from another country has more information on this, I would be happy if they share!
    You are right about polygamy, but I have a strong feeling that it is those women who are the second wife that the govt. wants to protect.
    And I have changed the poll question slightly now. Sorry about that…! Instead of saying whether it will discourage men from keeping mistresses I have changed it to whether it will discourage men from getting into live-in relationships, which includes mistresses. After all, some men avoid marriages because the financial commitment scares them. – Nita

  3. October 16, 2008 10:46 am

    I thought that people enter into live-in relationship because they want flexibility and want to avoid hassles of marriage. Now getting benefits without getting responsibilities of marriage is clearly not fair. I accept law which can permit live-in relationships to be certified so help them book hotel room or rent a house, and domestic abuse is simply law against violence, but maintenance is like “chit bhi meri pat bhi meri” for ‘other’ woman. And in such cases we seem to forget that ‘other’ woman has choice, and entered into live-in relationship and avoided marriage knowing what it means and what it doesn’t. Worst tragedy is laws like this, and last year’s modified domestic violence law, are so heavily biased against men, is that most uses are by women to harass men, because those who really need protection, and there are lots of them, don’t really know the law or are too constrained by society.

    Ashish, a lot of women from the poorer sections of society land up as second wives. Often they are already abandoned women, or perhaps they are single but this law is basically to protect them. As the women are poor and illiterate it is difficult to say whether they have the means to support themselves otherwise, or more important, whether they can lead a respectable existence without a man in the society they live in. – Nita.

  4. October 16, 2008 10:59 am

    If people are not ready to get married,let them not..But making the web more tangled by stuff like these,you people are mocking at legal wives like me..Am I fool or stupid anough to marry?? Is life all about staying together without sharing any responsibilities? I wonder which dirty women on the first instance will opt to become a mistress,spoiling the wife’s rights..

    I ahve no issues with young UPPER society living together..they don’t get married,bcoz they don’t want to..But now they want to get legal right of hypocritical..very funny **rolls eyes** If rights matters so much,why don’t they get married uh?

    Newspapers,especiallt timesonline is hell bent over convincing everybody that “Open marriages” is nothing worng and in fact it is very beneficial and all…bla bla bla…

    We all are talking loud and loud and loud about individual freedom..What about those kids?I have seen people religiously arguing that hindu culture encloses such things and hence there is nothing wrong in India adapting these stuff..

    My issue is not with live-in relationships,but in their sick hypocracy that they don’t want to get married,but want to get all rights of a

    Nimmy, if the people are consenting adults and not hurting anybody, I don’t see anything wrong with cohabition. But as for the rights of wife, well I don’t think single people who are living together are demanding that. It’s the govt. which is trying to intervene. – Nita.

    • permalink
      June 27, 2010 3:01 pm

      ” if the people are consenting adults and not hurting anybody, I don’t see anything wrong with cohabition.”

      I think you should consider the facts and not put your judgment on speculations. Just look at the stats, how many who cohabit not break up. You’ll clearly see the trend that more people who cohabit tend to move to other relations in as short as a year or maybe months.

      Now come to the part of ‘hurting anybody’. Such unprotected behavior results in spread of STDs. If you do some research you’ll see that not all diseases show up immediately with HIV even taking as long as six moths to show up physically. How does that look? Two people not hurting anyone? What would if your partner you slept with carried HIV but did not know himself? Wont that hurt you? And yes condoms only (if ever totally) protect from sperm, it doesn’t protect from other fluids like sweat, saliva etc both of which can be carriers of disease.

  5. October 16, 2008 11:00 am

    Three things :

    1) Equality of genders : If indeed there is such a thing (Personally I do not believe in it) then there should be no provision for a man to pay for the upkeep of the woman. Between consenting adults maintainence should be paid to the person irrespective of gender to whoever who can not afford to keep themselves. Children should be raised by both the partners. Very honestly I would not get in to a relationship where I am expected to feed everyone.

    2) Legislation on private matters : Who I sleep with, what I do in my own bed and within the confines of my own house is my own business. I do not like the whole tone of the government here. Lets legalize this or that. Human relationships do not need governmental sanction. It sounds very patronizing to me, I do not know about you guys.

    3) Marriage/Long term relationship : The whole point of not getting married is that you want to stay with someone without committing and being able to leave whenever you want to. It is about retaining your independence. Financial independence is a great part of that independence. If I wanted to share finances with my partner(s) I would simply marry them! This law ‘legalising’ long term relationships is cleverly just trying to take out that option by converting a long-term relationship in to a marriage.

    I must say one thing more, so actually I am going to end up saying 4 things . Men and Women enter such relationships by their own CONSENT and as such should be responsible for their own actions. I know some women who have multiple partners, I know at least 3-4 who have more than one husband. It works both ways in this country men polygamy as well as polyandry. Familial polyandry is a fact of life in at least three North-Indian states especially in rural areas. All I am trying to point is that making gender specific laws does not help. If you must legislate, legislate for humans, not for men or women.

    Odzer, your views are always interesting to read! Well, I do agree that human relationships do not need govt. sanction. But what is marraige anyway? It is govt. sanction of a relationship, isn’t it? And about why two single people do not marry, I tend to agree. They don’t want to commit because they are not sure. very few people stay unmarried purely because they don’t believe in marraige. – Nita.

  6. October 16, 2008 11:09 am

    Interesting post, Nita. I think extending the benefits of marriage to live-ins is a good thing. So what if two people don’t want to get married? if they are together long enough, why should they not get the benefits? It’s not just about maintenance. Even things like insurance, for e.g., a live-in partner can nominate the other person. And – I don’t think live-in partners necessarily keep finances separate. So long as it doesn’t harm others, I think they are fully entitled to such benefits, for which we need to go back and think about why the concept of maintenance emerged, in the first place. It is more to do with traditional division of labour, than whether a relationship is a marriage or a live-in. (I had too much to say on this, so I have a post up on my blog instead!)

    However, I don’t think we should confuse live-ins between single people, with bigamy, which is a live-in where 1 person is married, and 1 isn’t.

    Apu, there is the question of second wives. That is what the govt. is trying to do, help out women who are the second partners, this happens quite commonly in India by the way. – Nita.

  7. October 16, 2008 11:09 am

    Also,I’ld like to know how does the law deal about those kids born in mistress-live-in relationships??Are they to get the same inheritance and all..Thatz highly injustice..

    I have a more better idea,abolish the institution as a whole and let us move around involved without being burdened with any responsibilities..Isn’t that more cool and progressive!!

    My two cents:

  8. October 16, 2008 12:06 pm

    Yep.. Mrs. Nimmy is surely getting Hot (headed)… LOL…

    honestly… In a marriage, Live-in by any other partner can be a curse… whereas it can be a boon for couple who want to take that step towards marriage but want some time before it….

    The Divide is here to stay and will deepen unless it is refined accordingly….!!!

  9. October 16, 2008 1:20 pm

    lol…sorry i sounded rude..really offense to anybody ok 🙂

    Reshmi,thatz my whole point is all about..

    ..for couple who want to take that step towards marriage but want some time before it….

    Why people are greedy enough to avail rights of marriage when they don’t want and are not inside the bond? Take problem..but take patience to avail rights only once you get married..If people are not ready to take the burden of responsibilities,they are not entitled to have gains too..Isn’t that fair?

    By ‘you’ i don’t mean you personally..Just a collective term..


    the whole institution of marriage is just an over hyped one..Yeas,it is good,but at times it can be a burden too..But then again,the solution is to walk out of the relationship,but not to look for satisfation outside,but still standing inside the circle..A divorce is better than bad marriage..

    I am sorry if i sounded arrogant and rude..I just feel bad about this matter..and my emotions took over the brain..

  10. October 16, 2008 1:47 pm

    Dear Nimmy…(no emphasis on the Mrs.).. i would be in the same stage if i were married.. no woman would want “the other” to step in!! its natural.. so don’t regret it…. “The PROPOSED Law” is here to debate upon.. so shall we….

    and you are no fool or stupid, being married… seriously! we all want to be stupid.. believe me or not!! 🙂

  11. October 16, 2008 2:29 pm

    I just don’t know what to think, but I read Odzer’s comment above and kind of agree with him. When women agree to live-in without getting married then why do they want to be treated as wives? Not moralising…just puzzled.

    IHM, it is important to remember that these women who the govt. is trying to help are often made destitute after bearing several kids by the man. Often they do not even know that the man is married. Even educated men fool their second wives into thinking that they are the first. There was even a celebrity case a year or so ago but is common even amongst the common people. Or at times the second woman would have been on the streets anyway and feels that living with the man is better than that. I do feel sympathy for such cases.- Nita.

  12. October 16, 2008 4:00 pm

    A post which will invite a lot of debate.

    You wrote “The fact that they are choosing to live without marriage usually means that they have chosen to defy society ” and after few lines you wrote “although she certainly needs acceptance from society, during and after such a relationship.”

    are not the 2 lines contradicting each other??

    If they have chosen to defy the society why do they/her/him need it???

    and I too agree with Odzer that why should wife get the maintenance?? why not the man? what if the man get ditched in such a process?? where is the law for that??

    I certainly agree with you when you say, it should take in on a case to case basis.

    Sharad, I do not think it is a contradiction. They have defined society because they want to live their life their way, but they still crave acceptance. They are only human. They have given up something, because they want something else more, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the other thing!
    And by the way, there is a law for maintenance of men too, there have been such cases of late, but it is unusal as the man has to prove that he has no other means of income or very less and the wife is earning much more. But usually men do not bear children and spend their productive years in looking after the home and the kids (they are out earning instead) so usually they earn more. Also often the children need to be looked after and often they live iwth the wife so she needs money for that too. If she did not get maintenance by law, no woman would ever leave her job or bear kids. She would first look at her financial self-sufficiency. It would mean the break up of the family as we know it. – Nita.

  13. October 16, 2008 4:03 pm

    I may sound stupid.. but where is the poll? I cant find it 😦

    Maybe your office server doesn’t allow it’s download. – Nita.

  14. October 16, 2008 4:22 pm

    the law against homosexuality being removed is good,it will help curb AIDS and will hopefully reduce homophobia…

    the second seems funny.As you said the only people who go for live-in relationships are those who are financially independent.Now we might find more gold diggers around,who knows.The fact is,the real sanctity of a relationship lies,in the understanding between people,when there is a price tag put ,it is more like “buying”. And also the only people who will understand such a law,would people are educated and these people in most cases must be in a comfortable position anyway.

    The idea of judging each case separately is good,but then we have “corruption” and without a frame work,exploitation will become high.

    Vishesh, well, upper classes would need this law less. – Nita.

  15. October 16, 2008 5:00 pm

    I would like to know what The Thakareys have to say to this law… !

    He is busy with Jet Airways! – Nita.

  16. Vinod permalink
    October 16, 2008 8:54 pm

    the Supreme Court validated long-term live-in relationships as “marriages”. I am not sure what that is supposed to mean,

    I can’t say precisely what it means. But from my study of UK law, it could mean that the rights of the spouses will be adjudicated with reference to statutes related to matrimonial relationships (are there such in India? There should be). Distilled further, it means the cohabitee gets more property rights on separation. But even this, makes sense only in the first type of live-in relationship – the literal cohabitation – that you’ve identified.

    I would prefer it if the court decides these incidents of abandonment on a case-to-case basis because some women deserve maintenance if they are thrown out after living with a man for years. There have been cases where the courts have ruled in favour of the other woman when it comes to maintenance and I have no discomfort with that. To make a blanket law is another matter

    There are other pros and cons with this method. Would you be comfotable with judges passing rulings based on their individual morality? What is the judge is very conservative and sees the woman who lived-in as ‘the seducer’ and rules against such a woman? A legislation would more correctly reflect field research on the state of affected women and the required tailoring of remedies. But this can happen when the legislative change is made through the academic studies done by the Law commission (is there such a commission in India? There should be). On the other hand, there may not be adequate research on the issue and legislation can be made poorly by parties with peculiar moral values (imagine the Bajrang Dal making the legislation). I’m just sharing some regular legal perspectives on whether a matter should be left to case law development or whether there should be legislation.

    I have not heard of any other country in the world which makes bigamy illegal but allows for maintenance of a live in partner.

    That is a good observation. I should check with my law lecturers on this.

    Vinod, that’s true, judges will be biased, but at this point of time I do not see another solution to the matter. – Nita.

  17. October 16, 2008 8:55 pm

    I don’t think this will have much impact on the man’s behaviour. But atleast it will protect the woman he abandons. Like most others acts, it has the scope to be misus but so can many others, like the domestic violence. But overall, the potential for good far exceeds the possible negative fallouts.

    Rohini, all laws can be misused, but I think this one has too many loopholes. It needs to be made more watertight. Hopefully it is passed, they will do that. – Nita.

  18. Vinod permalink
    October 16, 2008 9:05 pm

    Why people are greedy enough to avail rights of marriage when they don’t want and are not inside the bond?

    I think this is a good question asked by a commentator. I’m no expert on this but from my readings of case law in UK on cohabitation, this is what I’ve learnt (I like the past tense with a ‘t’ and not ‘ed’).

    – The above question assumes an unrealistic view of live-in relationships. When couples get into a live-in relationship they are not thinking in terms of rights at all. They are going in terms of informal understandings. The issue of rights comes up only when the relationship has gone sour. This is usually the case after a few years. Within that time, the woman or man may have sold his/her house and moved in with the partner. S/he may have spent loads of money on refurbishing the house, paying off the mortgage on the common home. S/he may have even left the previous job and moved town. All this will be done with good hopes and with good expectation of a life-long relationship. When the relationship breaks down, one cannot expect the partner to walk out of it forgetting all the money spent on the common home and any other losses suffered. It only makes sense that s/he be allowed to demand her share of the land.

    Vinod, your argument is very logical. Thanks. – Nita

  19. October 16, 2008 9:08 pm

    Good or Bad, is this law for everyone, here I mean every Indian including those excluded otherwise within (). As I see it may fail or create more problem as still in India most of the women dependent on men, that’s the fact. Even though if it became legal we will see more this happens in metros or big cities. Second I have a question in mind, for hindus in India second marriage in not legal/allowed. So if a married person keep live-in relationship with other woman, Should he married to both after limited time, if yes then what about second marriage law and if No then what the use of this live-in thing, (if they both get child with this live-in thing). Will that kid be treated as legitimate child?

    Tarun, yes most Indian women are dependent on men and that is how most men like it. They prefer it if the woman concentrates on the home and children as we are a traditional society (even if she is earning). However, I can assure you that keeping mistresses is not a metro thing. It’s an all-india phenomena and widespread amongst well to do people in rural areas. – Nita.

  20. Vinod permalink
    October 16, 2008 9:08 pm

    Fyi, in UK there is a difference between the way the courts approach the calculation of the share of the cohabitee in the land and that of a wife in the land. The former is based on ‘trust’ principles while the latter is based on statutory regulations.

    I am not sure I understand. You mean a live in partner has financial rights? What happens if there is a wife as well? – Nita.

  21. Vinod permalink
    October 16, 2008 9:12 pm

    In general, there is no use criminalizing or illegitimizing something if the underground version of the activity cannot be controlled. Such laws are ‘feel-good’ laws that can placate the society but will have no beneficial effect on it

    I agree wholeheartedly!! – Nita.

  22. October 16, 2008 9:19 pm

    I think the law will provide a safety net for the dependent woman but i am not sure what effect it will have on Men trying to be in such a relationship. The idea that it will encourage Woman to try to go into such a relationship due to this law is just cynical. Not every woman would be willing to do that.

    I agree, I doubt that it will encourage women, not in our society at least where live-in relationships are taboo. – Nita.

  23. October 16, 2008 9:38 pm

    “Court is taking a moral stand as bigamy is illegal in India (except for Muslims) and there is certainly no proposal to make bigamy legal.”

    I had to smile on seeing the “except for Muslims” in brackets. Perhaps Muslim evangelists can advertise this to attract men from other religions into converting 🙂

    I am all for legalizing live-in relationships, specially since this will secure the couple from some potential idiot-allegations of prostitution. If the couple is sure that they are going to be together long-term, it’s often advantageous to get a registered marriage certificate (helps during travel, immigration, visas etc.) but if they never plan on leaving their home town they can save on the registration costs (probably 500 rupees, less than the cost of a restaurant meal for 2) *grin*

    One thing I’d like to see happen in India is the concept of pre-nuptial agreements. It’d protect men from potential gold digger women.

    Hello Nish. A legal live-in relationship is marriage and as you say it makes sense to simply get a marraige certificate if one is serious about each other. And some say marraige is legalised prostitution anyway! In a patriarchal society these kinds of things are said about women, because their contribution to the home and hearth is not valued as much as it should be. – Nita.

  24. October 16, 2008 10:07 pm

    No I don’t think it will discourage men. I had no idea that the law is for those too who live with already married men! I thought its just for those couples (not previously married) who live together. I agree with you that it should be decided on case to case basis. The government should know better than legalising bigamy!!

    Reema, we usually tend to think of our kind of society isn’t it. But well, once the law comes into force, it will have to apply to all live-ins, whether the live in is a first partner or the second. What is more important however, is whether the woman knew her husband was married, whether she is financially self-sufficient, whether she has children by the man, how many years she has been with him etc…all these factors will come into play. – Nita.

  25. October 16, 2008 10:43 pm

    @ Nita : Marriage is indeed a legal/social sanction of relationships. It is precisely for that reason I said if someone wanted to commit themselves “legally” and I do not mean check themselves in to an insane asylum 🙂 they can get married. Live in relationships should not come under purview of the law, a legal commitment to a lesser degree can be incorporated in to the law by keeping the door open to “domestic partnership” between two consenting adults irrespective of gender. All you need is a register for such relationships. You know what I suggest the registrar who is usually the Tehsildar in most Indian districts can do that job. Its as simple as that.

    Registering live-in relationships, well I do not think it’s necessary because then it will automatically mean that those who don’t register are discriminated against. – Nita.

  26. October 16, 2008 11:03 pm

    This is such a waste of time and money, according to me… Why bother with trivialities? If people wanna live together, they’ll do so. Period.
    I know friends who’ve been living together for more than three years… It’s just one insane law after the other, it seems… 😀

    I highly doubt that this is a triviality Nikhil. The law is not too bothered with upper class people. – Nita.

  27. October 16, 2008 11:12 pm

    I believe that if this law is passed, men will think twice before entering a live-in relationship. Live-in relationships are in practice because the couple think that they are not bound to their partners by any law. But the law might change this perception.

    Again, keeping a second wife might also not be as lucrative. People do all such things because there are no legal actions attached to them. The moment you attach the word “law” to it, the thing becomes more grave.

    Amit, thanks. You know after reading the comments (even those which don’t agree with this) I have now come round to this same point of view. If a man has to support the live-in, he will hesitate to get into a relationship. About how it will affect women I don’t know. If society does not except her even if she has financial security, then I think women may not be inclined that much. Now whether social sanction will improve if the law changes, well I don’t know because we have so many laws against dowry but still society accepts dowry givers. In fact it is possible that society will hate the other woman even more as she is now a financial threat. – Nita.

  28. October 16, 2008 11:14 pm

    “He is busy with Jet Airways” haha…
    I don’t think that this is going to deter men from cheating on their wife because it’s not the money that matter to them. Its only his honesty and morality that would make a difference.

    I agree with Nikhil, if anyone want to live with each other let them. There shouldnt be any law for that. And also does the law classify the time period a couple should live together to get compensation?

    Xylene, I think they are going to work this out if the law is ever passed. The fact that no other country in the world has this law hopefully should deter them. In India the necessity of this law has arisen because of hundreds of complaints by women who are on the streets because they are thrown out after being used. We have no social welfare etc and also an uneducated woman cannot do physical labour after a certain age. – Nita.

  29. Padmini permalink
    October 17, 2008 12:35 am

    I am surprised to hear that the law against homo sexuality is going to be removed (or at least will be argued). In my opinion,this is certainly one step towards allowing people to choose the partners they want to and to be honest and open about it.

    Well, the fact that they are discussing it is a great thing. The latest I hear is that most ministers are against it, but let us see what the court says. Interestingly same sex couples from abroad are allowed to have surrogate babies in India!! – Nita.

  30. R.Sajan permalink
    October 17, 2008 5:57 am

    1. Anything that Nature permits ought to be legal as long as your freedom ends where my nose [or pot belly…..or…] begins.

    2. What we rationally need is a Uniform Civil Code.

    3. Do these laws conflict interest-wise…? Abuse of sexual harassment laws is of significance in India. Consider Kerala sex scandals.

    4. Is the one-night stand legal? What about casual sex?

    Sajan, as you said as it is not disturbing someone, there is no reason for the law to interfere. – Nita.

  31. Bombay wadapav eater permalink
    October 17, 2008 5:58 am

    In Germany it is indeed like Odzer’s first point. After a divorce, the richer partner has to support the poorer one if in need and the children. But statistically speaking, it is still the wife who is financially dependent on the man even here, especially in couples with children. Many couples here live-in have have children together and do not marry becaus ethey do not believe in it. In such cases, when they split similar laws apply like in divorce cases but I’m not sure if the richer partner actually has to provide financial support to the partner or only the children. Must check on that. In the UK, I guess there is no difference between long-term live-in relationships (de facto) and marriages. The woman is always favoured in case of divorces in the UK. Many foxyGerman women therefore go to the UK and then file a divorce. At least read sth, not sure. Isn’t Shefaly from the UK? She can probably tell s more.

    Bombay wadapav eater, I doubt whether a woman live in can claim alimony for herself. I have not read this anywhere. Also from Vinod’s comment it is is clear that she has a right only if the house/bank account is in her name or she can prove that she has contributed to it. Vinod is a lawyer, that is what I gather and he has some good knowledge on this issue. – Nita.

  32. R.Sajan permalink
    October 17, 2008 6:11 am

    A 58 year old Kerala Catholic Bishop’s legally adopting a 26 year old Kerala girl that he had met during a pilgrimage might be of interest here.

    Some relations cannot just be rationally explained. Everything is not sex alone.

  33. Vinod permalink
    October 17, 2008 7:30 am

    I am not sure I understand. You mean a live in partner has financial rights? What happens if there is a wife as well? – Nita.

    I meant that a cohabitee’s share on separation is calculated based on the nature of interaction that have a bearing on the properties between the partners over the years. That is what I meant by ‘trust principles’ – a reference to the Law of Trusts. Thus, the cohabitee’s share can be anywhere between 0 to 100.

    But when a wife separates, regardless of the nature of interaction between the couple related to the common property she will have some rights by statute (section 17 Matrimonial Homes Act). Her share is therefore at the very least close to a 50%.

    I hope that clarifies the matter a bit more.

    About live-in quasi-bigamous r/ships, I’ve never seen a UK case law on that. I’ll have to inquire about it. But if I may speculate, it is difficult to see why the wife must be given a share of what the husband spends on the mistress out of his own money, unless she has been seriously prejudiced in her living standards by the diminution in her financial allowance or if it is her money that he has been using on his mistress. Again, I don’t know how such arrangements work. But I would expect the husband to have his mistress in a separate house and also have a separate bank account for her. With such separation, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem identifying the property that is to be shared with the wife and mistress respectively. Perhaps, if you could give me a case where the conflict can get real, I may be able to give a better answer.

    Vinod, thanks a lot. I understand the situation very well now! I guess alimony as such for a live in partner after separation would be out of the question. – Nita.

  34. October 17, 2008 9:24 am

    @ Nita : Little clarification, What I meant was to register “domestic partnerships” not live in relationships. Marriages and domestic partnerships are regularly registered in most of the world. In fact if I am not wrong the Indian government either is already registering all marriages or plans to do so eventually. Domestic partnerships can eventually be a solution for people of minority sexual orientation to get a sort of legal protection for their “relationships” if they so desire.

    It is compulsory to register marriages in India now, although there are religious groups oppositng it. So therefore I think you are using the word “domestic partnership” to mean marraige. – Nita.

  35. October 17, 2008 10:33 am

    I am not sure what the MH government has planned, but some people said that the government was trying to make a law which gives compensation to women in case her partner has abandoned her after a failed live in relationship. Its important to understand, that if a women gets pregnant in such a case, then who is liable to be called the father of that child? In a bid of saving grace, the government perheps wants to have a law that might help in prevention of woman exploitation in live-in relationships..Speaking in terms of legal practices, how to define what a live-in relation is?? Who will decide that its actually a live-in relation?? Is it enough that one guy and one girl stay together in one flat, and then without any paperwork or bond, its a legal live-in relationship? Or you need to have sex at least once so as to conform it as legal? What?? The complexities of this bill are more then what we can think…
    I wonder, how many people actually opt for a ‘without marriage’, ‘without compulsion’ lifestyle in India? Very few to be precise..

    There was no immediate need of introducing this bill as ther are so many other issues we are facing, like an economic meltdown in the making, poverty, high inflation rate, corruption, but politicos, who would prevent them from taking filmy hero steps?? Its said – ‘Prevention is better then cure’, why bothr preventing something thats higly unlikely to happen?? Maybe the govt thinks Live-in relationship is the next biggest problem looming ahead after the possible global economic meltdown…


  36. vinod permalink
    October 17, 2008 7:16 pm

    And also does the law classify the time period a couple should live together to get compensation?

    UK is considering stipulating a certain length of time in cohabitation after which the rights extendable to a wife can be extended to a cohabitee. They’re doing this in light of the fact that the number of cohabiting partnerships are on the rise and constitute a significant portion of marriage-like relationships. Many of these couples even end up raising 3-4 kids and buying and selling 2-3 homes. There remains little to distinguish them from an actual marriage. They have good social research and good deal of case law to back their laws. So far, the law commission in UK has refrained from specifying a time period. But they have put it as a recommendation to the govt. it is now upto the give of UK to come up with a legislation with this detail.

  37. October 17, 2008 11:22 pm

    @ Nita : No I do not mean domestic partnerships as the same thing as marriage. Although it can mean the same thing so I can understand why you thought of it that way. I see domestic partnership as an in between thing from among Marriage and just living with someone.

  38. Bombay wadapav eater permalink
    October 18, 2008 2:37 am

    Clarified the point: In Germany if a couple splits in a live-in relationship and have no children, the woman cannot claim alimony. Only if they have children, can she or he since she/ he has dropped her/ his career in order to bring up the kids. So you are absolutely right Nita. My hubby is a lawyer too or judge (Jurist) as they call in Germany.

  39. October 18, 2008 11:10 am

    I understand i was not fully right in my first judgement..I didn’t see the other side of this law helping women,who get cheated by men by hiding the fact that he is already married..In such cases,if the lady complains of fraud,we should have a clause in law as to take out double money from that man..Afterall,he cheated and deserves no love,commitment ans sympathy..But as for sngle couples,I stand by what i said-it is not right,as it takes away the sense of ‘marriage’..

    I really don’t understand why do people opt not to get married even when they have kids..Strange..

  40. October 18, 2008 1:03 pm


    Supreme court has a history to go out of the way in giving judgements in favour of women 🙂

  41. vinod permalink
    October 18, 2008 5:27 pm

    @ Nimmy
    I really don’t understand why do people opt not to get married even when they have kids..Strange..

    One of the reasons that I’ve heard is that “marriage adds everything and nothing to the relationship”

    Make of it what you will.

    Bottomline, marriage as a ritual loses all meaning. This is particularly true of cultures where individualism is celebrated. Individuals see themselves ungoverned by society with limited obligations to the society as a whole. They also expect little from society. The society is not seen as greater than the sum of individual actions. In fact, they only see individual people around them and not a society as an entity. Therefore, they see their actions as having little or no impact on the society.

    In my mind, the only philosophical argument that remains for marriage is that of preserving the institution of marriage in society as a symbol of commitment to family values. These rituals are occassions for symbolic representations that individuals make towards the society they are a part of and the society in turn makes its representation to the couple by its acceptance of the relationship. In this manner, there is an addition to the ‘mythos’ of the society. The need for such interaction with the society as a whole is only felt where the boundary between the individual and the society is not so sharply defined. The individual actually sees an entity called a society around him/her that has a collective personality to it.

    That’s just the way things are. I am not being prescriptive about the correct philosophy for a culture. Erosion of individuality brings its own burden which I wouldn’t want to get into in this comment section.

  42. R.Sajan permalink
    October 19, 2008 6:28 am

    Fidelity!! If only the office and dining tables in our offices could speak….! Forget the Hotel rooms.

  43. October 19, 2008 10:27 pm

    Harshad, all the points you raised I am sure the law will define them, if it is ever passed. I think it won’t now, because there is no such law anywhere in the world.

    Vinod, it is interesting to know that the UK is considering such a legislation. I guess for them the reason is different, that so many people are living as without marriage. In India it is only a small proportion of people. Most of the cases are bigamous relationships where poor women are exploited and that is whom the govt. wants to protect.

    Bombay wadapav eater, thanks for that info. I am sure that no country has such a legislation but it is interesting that the UK is considering it!

    Nimmy, if the society accepts them I guess they don’t care much like in some countries. In India you won’t see couples having kids without marriage and living a normal life. But you see it in bigamous relationships. I am sure in some cases women go in for it with open eyes and wonder why they should choose such a life. Maybe they are already abandoned by their partners and need someone. I know a case like this, a maid who started living with a rickshaw driver knowing he had a wife. She told me that living alone as an abandoned woman was tough and also not safe. I personally would not judge anyone who makes this decision. Who know what their circumstances are?

    Vivek Mittal, well, why should you say that it is in favour of women and not that the supreme court gives justice?

  44. Dnyanesh permalink
    October 20, 2008 1:42 am

    I am against changing definition of a wife. Wife can never be equal to a live-in partner or mistress, whatever you call it. Husband gets respect because of wife and vice versa.

    In live-ins and mistress relationships, you do not want to take responsibilities. This law would force to take such financial responsibilities. I think wife should be provided maximum benefits if marriages breaks up. Live-ins may get few but mistress none at all. Its not good for the society to encourage live-ins by giving equal status as wife. How much respect children of such ‘arrangement’ will get? That’s the real question to ask.

  45. Jayati permalink
    October 21, 2008 4:16 pm

    Has the government decided who’s a second wife and who’s a live-in, if the intention is to protect the second wives? If polygamy’s illegal, won’t every woman who is not legally married but lives with a man considered a live-in?

  46. Nazneen O. Saherwala permalink
    October 26, 2008 3:07 pm

    Islam allows four wives. Legalization of Live in Relationship means Islamization of a Hindu law.Are we ready for it? Are we ready to accept a second woman as a legal wife?

  47. October 27, 2008 12:47 am

    The Government has gone nuts, there are lots of basic problems in INDIA which it has look after but then its going after such kinda crap thing.

    Now whats the point in making live-in relationship legal. Rite now I am in a livin relationship, so that I can understand my girl friend much better and we both can decide whether we can legalize our relationship (that is to marry). And here government is planning to legalize it before itself.

    What if we both don’t get together, then also I have to pay alimony??? If they are bothered about bigamy then the rule should be specifically only directed towards married persons not on single guys.

    What an irrational crap government we are having.

  48. November 4, 2008 10:29 pm

    @SaTaN, it isn’t just about alimony or any money as such, it has to do with basic welfare and dignity averred on such a decision made by the couple by the society. Suppose, mate falls ill and requires a surgery, U cdnt sign the bond and get her in, u wd have to stand there watch her suffer until a legal ‘relative’ came in to do the formalities.
    Wd u like that? If it’s legalized U stand the right to do what it requires for her.
    Its just an example and has no bearing really on the main reason they are plying this.
    The intent of passing it as law is fine, it’s just that this country is a bit nutty and kind of festering and dishonest from within, just imagine how many diff kinds of ‘liasions’,’arrangements’ you can have here? Outside of a marriage that is 🙂 ask Nita she wd write abt it 🙂
    Also if men didn’t have to take responsibility, they wd go on with one woman after the other in the name of trying it out, getting to know them better.

    • Invincible permalink
      March 17, 2010 10:13 pm

      Yes Trisha you are right when you say “Also if men didn’t have to take responsibility, they wd go on with one woman after the other in the name of trying it out, getting to know them better.” – In fact thats the reason why live in relationship exists.
      And believe me MOST of the MEN would enjoy that -:)

  49. November 8, 2008 8:59 am

    Suppose, mate falls ill and requires a surgery, U cdnt sign the bond and get her in, u wd have to stand there watch her suffer until a legal ‘relative’ came in to do the formalities.

    What about legalizing friendship? 🙂
    Cause if your friend is in hospital , u would have to wait her/him suffer until “legal relative” come to do formalities. Whz ur take on it?

  50. stud.boy99 permalink
    November 21, 2008 10:50 pm

    some logical/legal Questions for you all…

    1. how many mistresses can one man have now, legally speaking ?? options– (1 or 2 or 5, or as many)

    2. how many “misters” (hoping this is right term) can one woman have now, legally speaking?? options– (1 or 2 or 5, or as many)

    Now lets bring this to another level… lets combine this with gay debate in india…

    3. so, does this new law apply to gay relationships too.. Y/N

    if yes, then..

    4. If there is a husband and a wife, and can the husband have another gay relationship (as a mistress or mister) on the same lines??

    5. If there is a husband and a wife, and can the wife have another lesbian relationship (as a mistress or mister)??

    so guys, i hope you can see how utterly illogical the laws can be… 🙂 i think politics should be renamed as entertainment industry.. and politics should be charged with entertainment tax… ha ha..


  1. Live-ins and Ekta Kapoor | DesiPundit

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