Accepted paper:

Live-in relationships in India


Fritzi-Marie Titzmann (Leipzig University)

Paper short abstract:

As compared to premarital ‘dating’ which is increasingly acceptable among the urban middle and upper classes in India, ‘live-in relationships’ pose a far bigger threat because they undermine the sanctity of the bond of matrimony.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2010, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of women declaring that they should get the rights of a wife, in case of live-in couples. Despite the reinvigoration as relationships equal to marriage in 2015, controversies in the Indian parliament as well as within the society continue. Unmarried couples often lack the blessing and support of their families. They further face practical problems such as renting a house or staying in a hotel room together. The incident of 40 couples being arrested from Mumbai hotels for 'public indecency' in August 2015 demonstrates the societal ignorance towards the right of privacy very vividly. The adversaries' main argument is a known one: the incompatibility of unmarried cohabitation with Indian culture and values. We thus overserve an obvious contradiction between the legal framework and its social acceptance. Media discourses reflect these tensions. Particularly looking at individual reader comments to relevant articles or blogposts reveals conflicting attitudes. On the one hand, the concept of live-in relationships is regarded as a welcome and progressive development but it is considered being a 'western' influence. On the other hand, concerns about the decline of the family system and the rise of a commitment-phobic generation are expressed not only by self-proclaimed conservatives but by young bloggers too. The rapidly globalizing urban middle classes in India hold a very peculiar function of being the site of anxiety around the loss of culture and tradition as well as the site of progress and social change.

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