Rights of Women in Live-in Relationship in India
In Indian society relationship between a man and woman, other than that arising out of a valid marriage is condemned as ‘meretricious’, ‘illegitimate’ etc. Monogamy is the socially and legally recognized rule, except in case of Mohammedans and for all others; Bigamy is an offence punishable under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. It is known that ‘marriage’ is a ‘social institution’ and comes with a package of rights, obligations and legal remedies in cases where dispute arises between parties to the marriage. Women being the vulnerable section in the patriarchal society are shielded with the protection of rights of ‘wife’ under various laws such as right to residence, right to maintenance, rights against cruelty and harassment, protection against domestic violence and a legal duty is cast upon the husband to provide the basic necessities of food and shelter to maintain the family. While these legislations providing protection to women are aimed, at achieving social empowerment, the same have also become tools in the hands of educated, employed and modern women to harass meek men in failed marriages and are misused to satisfy their ego. The Supreme Court of India has also judicially recognized such misuse.1 With modernization and westernization, the concepts of Live-in Relationships have become popular especially among the youth who seek the joy and enjoyment of conjugal relationship but are unwilling to carry the baggage of duties and obligations cast upon them by law and society. This article seeks to explore the validity, status, rights and obligations of women partners in a relationship especially when the man is married with his first marriage still subsisting and the woman unmarried. Such relationship has no legal sanctity or status. It further moots the question as to: can a woman, who has dared to digress the social norms by entering into a live-in relationship with a married man seek legal redressal? Will the society or legal system come to the rescue of such a woman who is at worst called a ‘concubine’, ‘immoral’, ‘mistress’ or as living in adultery. The absence of a legal sanctity or obligations under such relationships may lead to infidelity or exploitation of women who enter into such relationships with love towards the man. The scope for exploitation is more because there is no binding obligations or duties upon the spouses in the relationship. Let us explore these issues in detail.