In a rather bizarre ruling, the Madras high court has ruled that should a couple of the permitted legal age indulge in a sexual relationship, they could be deemed a married couple by default. The question to be asked here is whether considering a couple indulging in sex married has any social merit or not and how the ruling could impact Indian society in the future.
The ruling was made by Justice C S Karnan who stated that a couple of the correct legal age (the age of consent in India is 18 years) who have a sexual relationship with one another should be deemed to be a married couple. The justice went on to state that Vedic rituals like exchange of rings, garlands and tying of the mangalstura were only to satisfy the society and that either party who has been in a sexual relationship can legitimately approach a family court to have the relationship officially declared official and valid as a marriage if they can provide documentary proof of the sexual relationship. When the declaration is received, the couple would be able to establish themselves as a married couple in government records.
The pros of the ruling
. Couples who have been in a relationship would be able to declare themselves married more easily. This has the potential to curb forced marriages when families don’t approve of the match.
. Couples can transition from live-in relationship to being married without the legal hassle of a court marriage.
. Women that have been duped into having sex by men on the promise of marriage would be able to claim marital status more easily. Alternatively, men too would be able to avoid getting married to women that unfairly allege that they had been duped into having sex on the promise of marriage as the women would need to give documentary proof of the sexual relationship.
The cons of the ruling
. Either party would be able to force the other into marriage despite their unwillingness to be married.
. Providing documentary proof of a sexual relationship might be difficult when the couple doesn’t have any children together.
. A person may have a sexual relationship with multiple partners before marriage. If the ruling is upheld, then the person’s subsequent marriage, even if legitimate, would be considered null and void.
. Society might ostracize such couples as Indian society still demands that couples, mostly the women, remain virgins till they get married.
The ruling essentially appears to be guilt tripping people who have pre marital sex into accepting the institution of marriage whether they believe in it or not. Indian society is still coming to terms with the concept of pre marital sex. If this ruling is upheld, it might warp the fabric of Indian morality further.