Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Unwedded bliss

Laws that govern live in relationships in India are fast changing.

The Supreme Court recently set a precedent granting a woman succession rights despite his legally-wedded wife being alive. The woman was awarded a succession certificate on the grounds that the children born out of the relationship were legitimate.

For a country that has long believed in the institution of marriage and have associated it with everything sacred, it seems that the legal system in our country is moving towards a more tolerant mode of functioning deeming couples that have lived together for several years as a husband and wife would be entitled to the same rights that married people enjoy being directed by only certain basic premises such as no one should dispute their union of being one of marriage.

So what brings about the change? The occurrence of more such arrangements in urban India? A change in mindset towards marriage itself? Or a drastic change in lifestyles that leaves little time to worry about who’s sleeping with who?

Perhaps it’s all these reasons more. But what really seems to be at play, or atleast what hopefully is the case, is that our judiciary is making a firm divide between the moral and legal aspect of its functioning. In a country that is so heavily determined by tradition and culture, the Indian public is gradually learning to separate morality from formal decisions – a subconscious tendency that has long been intricately woven into the nation’s social fabric.

Earlier, the legal wife garnered all the sympathy from the public, press and court, irrespective of what the circumstances were while the mistress was always seen as wrong in every sense of the term – rubbish that needed to be rid off at the earliest.

However, now the trend seems inclined towards ruling that it makes an infinite amount of sense for the partner who has spent her entire life sharing living space with a man and borne his children, who in society fulfills the role of a wife for all practical purposes be granted benefits from insurance policies and entitled to other such settlements as opposed to someone with whom nuptial rites have solely been exchanged.

Because it takes more than a piece of paper to create a marriage. And it seems that our country is finally realizing that.

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