ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Law and 'Live-in' Relationships in India

This paper focuses upon some of the legal moves which have brought adult heterosexual non-marital cohabitation patterns, popularly termed "live-in" relations, into public focus in India. These legal moves do not unambiguously signify legal sanction and recognition of new forms of non-marital heterosexual cohabitation patterns in India as some popular and judicial readings seem to suggest. Through a critical examination of some recommendations and aspects of the Malimath Committee and the debates ensuing from the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, it is shown that the legal changes are primarily directed at taking cognisance of women's vulnerable position within conventional forms of non-marital relations. Contradictory interpretations and conflicting implications arise in the absence of such legal changes being explicitly cognisant of and responsive to diverse forms of live-in relations prevalent in contemporary society.

This is a revised version of a paper presented at the International Seminar “In the Name of Honour: A Dialogue on Androcentric Matrimonial Practices and Women’s Subjugation in South Asia”, organised by Women’s Studies & Development Centre, University of Delhi, 16 to 18 February 2011.

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