The response to the concept has been mixed and like a coin has two sides, there are people who don’t see any stigma attached to the concept and there are others who have no qualms in entering such relationships, provided they end in marriage.
India is a land of prejudices and diverse cultures. We are afraid of change, be it in social or political scenario and thinking out of box is not really encouraged here. However, in spite of negatives, it is also a developing nation and western culture is creeping into it. Kaustav Rakshit, an engineer by profession, would like to spend some time with his prospective better half, provided he gets married to her. When asked whether it is a western influence, he replied, “What is wrong with that? The west has influenced us and will keep influencing us and live-in is here to stay as it allows a person to escape the pitfalls of marriage. It is basically marriage without the legal complications.”
Dr. S.P Dubey, the founder member of the Adarsh Samaj Sahyoy Samiti, a non-governmental organisation that looks after the empowerment of women is very critical of the concept and through such relationships; he believes that women are trampling their societal and cultural values. “Indian women have forgotten their place, by blindly following the west they forego their culture, the societal values and also discipline. Once praised for our culture, India is heading towards a land with no identity,” said a vehement Dr Dubey. Saying that such cases are on the rise, Dr Dubey cites economic freedom as the sole reason of such liaisons. When asked if any woman, who had faced any issues in such a relationship approached the organisation, he denied and advised that women should make better choices, rather moan after facing the consequences.
Dr. Hemant Singh, a psychologist by profession doesn’t agree with Dr Dubey and tried to take us through the mindset of people regarding the entire situation. “There is no stigma attached to the live-in relationship culture, maybe in smaller towns but definitely not in metros like Delhi and NCR regions like Gurgaon,” he said. According to him, this is not a western influence but liberalisation and financial independence of the modern era that has given birth to these kinds of relationships. He mentioned that as women are getting economically independent, they don’t depend on their parents to make their life choices. But for him the only bad part of the deal is ‘the frequent change of partners as many enter into live-in relationships for the sake of time pass and no-strings attached attitude.’
While ‘no-strings’ attitude is okay as long as both the partners are mutually satisfied by the agreement but when children and legality are taken into consideration, it turns out to be a very sticky patch. Many cases have come to the notice of lawyer V P Singh in which one of the partners opts to move out of the live-in relationship of many years that has even produced kids. That is the moment when hell breaks loose between the partners and kids are forced to suffer for no fault. “While according to the Hindu marriage Act of 1955, women on divorce are sure to get maintenance and property claim but since no bill for live-in relationships has been passed, hence it is not legal, so women cannot claim anything,” said Singh. He also added that in spite of the legal stamp, the trend is rising and people are getting into live in relationship as they have an easy way out.
In all this, what happens to the parents and are they happy that their children have found happiness in an unorthodox tradition, Dr. Singh said: “Parents in India are still not happy about the trend. Societal pressures ask them for answers and since they themselves do not approve of the matter, they are not happy to face such kind of questions about their wards.” Children of such live-in partners suffer the most as this concept is evolving but very new to the Indians. The west is quite comfortable with the idea of remarriage and stepmother or stepfather but Indians are not. The next generation would face the challenge as they would have amongst them kids who are of live-in couples.
Divorces may be reduced owing to the growing trend or so, believes a large chunk of population. Sandeep Viraj, an IT professional, who recently got divorced, however has a very different view. “Actually both the things are far from connected. As one might think that after staying with a partner and knowing them in a marriage, divorce is not possible but that is not true. Anything can go wrong even after 12 years of staying together and divorce depends on many factors. So live-in doesn’t decrease the level of divorces.”