The consensus of the panel discussion was that, “A live-in relationship is a lifestyle choice of cohabitation to accommodate the changing dynamics of romance in India.” The session was moderated by Rekha Dandige-Ghiya, while lawyer Anand Parchure presided over the discussion. Eminent psychiatrist Dr Sushil Gawande, poet Sumati Wankhede, writer and foundation director Shrikant Tidke, and lawyer Smita Singalkar voiced their opinions on the growing trend.
Although nothing comes without its own set of legality and loopholes, and such is the case of live-in relationships in India which were recognised under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Speaking from a legal purview, Smita Singalkar said, “The protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, provides for more effective protection of the rights of women who are victims of violence. Regardless of whether it is immoral or not in the public eye, it is illegal in terms of law and order. Last year, adultery was decriminalized in the country as it placed women differently than men.”
Live-in relationships: an alternative to idealised old school romance?
As one can imagine, the youth is more career-driven and career-oriented than their previous generations. The thought of settling down or marriage then stands only as a roadblock. This is where live-in relationships come in, standing as an alternative to the idea of old-school romance. Commenting on this Singalkar said, “I asked a few youngsters for their reason to be in a live-in relationship. I found out that people are career-oriented till the age of 30 to 35. They move cities for exposure on the work front and settling down with a family is not their priority. Marriage is binding and the youth has understood this. Therefore, they venture into live-in relationships to share equal responsibilities, face problems together and support each other, without having to follow the lengthy process of divorce when the need to separate arises.”
Live-in better if you want to separate later on, than go through divorce
“Like in the relationships of the LGBT community, we must understand their points of view, same is with people sharing a live-in relationship,” she added as an example. But this also raises questions as to why there is such a lengthy and exhaustive divorce process for marital couples to separate, despite mutual consent. Shouldn’t people have the right to fluidly move in and out of relationships on their own accord? Responding to this thought, Singalkar gave a simple yet unfulfilling answer, “It is a lengthy process because we have to establish the grounds of why one needs a divorce. It is also a legal principle to hear both sides. It is a step-by-step process.”
Live-in relationships believe in financial sharing and distributing responsibilities
Speaking on the rising trend of live-in couples, Dr Gawande said, “The number of people in live-in relationships consulting me has increased manifold in the recent years who cite several reasons for their visit. Most of these relationships believe in financial sharing and distributing the responsibilities.” This throws light on the fair and equal distribution of household responsibilities in a live-in relationship. Adding to his own understanding Dr Gawande said, “We are embracing the Western culture while Indianising the concepts to fit the norms of our culture.”Moderator Rekha Dandige-Ghiya mentioned the point of the middle-class being under the pressure of preserving the Indian culture during the discussion. To which Anand Parchure responded, “There is no question of classes in a live-in relationship. Classes are a societal construct. People are no longer afraid to express their needs and wants.”
Indian society still looks down upon live-in relationships
A 2018 survey on live-in relationships by leading news app, InShorts, revealed how the Gen Y feels about living together outside the purview of marriage. The survey received 1.4 lakh views from netizens through its app. Out of the total number, the survey found out that 80% of the millennials believe that “the Indian society still considers live-in relationships a huge taboo while 47% find marriage better than living-in with their partner”. Another segment of the survey determined that over 80% of Indians support the concept of live-in and among these 26% would choose lifelong live-in relationship as a way of life if they could.
However, even today, children do not have the right to choose for themselves in our society which continues to look down upon live-in relationships. While it is rare to hear of a family support their children being in such relationships, other (and most) sections of the society, even ostracise such members. Which explains why some of them won’t even entertain the thought of it.