Thursday, October 9

The 'other' story

Yesterday the TOI fooled me with this headline. And today did the same. Only this time it has changed the entire story. Both the Times and IBN carry precisely the same headline "Maharashtra to legalize live-in relationships." However, while the TOI talks about it in terms of the 'other woman' in a polygamous relationship, IBN makes no reference to it and interprets it as a live-in relationship as in Salaam Namaste. If both reports are talking of the same cabinet decision, I see no reason why such confusion should exist. If anyone has the real story, I would like to see it.

However, no matter what the real interpretation is, it is a bold move. Going by the IBN interpretation, it is a welcome step that recognizes the reality of 21C India. It tells me that the government is thinking ahead where we are sure to see an increase in the incidence of live-in relationships. And legal recognition would go a long way in making things easier for the people involved and also lead to social acceptance of such couples. It indicates a desire to move beyond the flawed "Indians don't do this" mentality. And I am really surprised and happy that the government should be the first one to do it.

And that is precisely why I think the IBN interpretation is wrong. I think the state is legalizing the status of the 'other woman.' I am not sure I want to be happy about it as (from a Hindu law perspective) it promotes polygamy. And even with my limited understanding of the way law functions, it contradicts the monogamous idea within the Hindu marriage law. (I am open to being enlightened upon this apparent contradiction.)

As for other religions that allow for polygamous relationships, it is a welcome step. The plight of the 'other woman' is no secret, and some form of legal protection against the whims and fancies of men is long due. 'Other woman' generally has a very derogatory connotation, and such affairs tend to be clandestine. However, these women do bear/raise children and support their men like most other wives. But they also face social humiliation for being the 'other'. Respect both from society and the man is not always generous, to say the least.

While I do not advocate polygamy, given that it is a fact of life, I think we should welcome this decision. Ignoring it or refusing to recognize it will not make infidelity and polygamy go away. It is in the interest of society and human/women's rights that actions be taken to remedy the ills of such behavior. It is important not only for the women concerned, but also the children who have to suffer for their parents actions. I don't think this decision will encourage polygamous relationships, but rather should marginally discourage it. The decision makes it legally expensive (alimony, child support ) to have an extramarital and/or polygamous relationship which should ideally dissuade people from it.

Of course all this comes after the media has finally decided what the real decision is.

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