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India
11 Jun 2017

Sexual relationship doesn't imply marriage under Hindu laws: Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court said that a sexual relationship by choice, chance or accident doesn't convert it into a 'marriage' under Hindu laws, and children borne out of such relationships might not be entitled to the father's property.

"Broadly, either customary solemnization of marriage or performance of legal formality is required to label that relationship as a marriage," said Justice Mridula Bhatkar.

In context

Live-in relationships and Hindu Marriage Laws
Women in live-ins to be considered a wife- SC observed

SC

Women in live-ins to be considered a wife- SC observed

This comes over two years after the SC ruled that a woman in a live-in relationship will be considered a wife, and will be entitled to her partner's property.

Such relationships also fall under the purview of the Protection of women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Back in 2010, it had said living together is a "right to life", not an offence or 'sin'.

Laws

What, according to the SC, defines a live-in?

In December 2013, the SC framed eight guidelines including on household arrangements, duration of relation and pooling of resources, to bring live-in relationships under 'relationships in the nature of marriage'.

Division of responsibilities, sexual relationship, pooling of resources, socialization in public, intention of the parties involved, and children borne out of such relationships will be deciding factors in determining the nature of the relationship.

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Children borne out of such relationships not illegitimate- SC

Children

Children borne out of such relationships not illegitimate- SC

The SC declared in April 2014 had held that children of a couple who "lived like husband and wife" would not be deemed illegitimate.

"It is evident that Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act intends to bring about social reforms, conferment of social status of legitimacy on a group of children, otherwise treated as illegitimate, as its prime object," it observed.

Hindu

What does the Hindu Marriage Act say?

Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act deals with the legitimacy of children.

"Notwithstanding that a marriage is null and void under Section 11, any child of such marriage who would have been legitimate if the marriage had been valid, shall be legitimate, whether such a child is born before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976…," it states.

Despite legal rights, couples still face issues

Reality

Despite legal rights, couples still face issues

Overall, the law has been siding with couples choosing to live together without marriage. However, they often face discrimination in society.

Finding a house for rent is often difficult; finding even hotels might be cumbersome, as many list "married couples only" as a policy.

Such couples often have to lying about their relationship status to live a disturbance-free life.

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