Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Indian court ruling on pre-marital sex causes social media storm


Even as the death toll from the apocalyptic flooding in northern India passed 200 with thousands still missing, the country was gripped by a wholly different problem, if social media is anything to go by.

A ruling by the Madras High Court which stated that couples who have pre-marital sex are considered legally married caused a Twitter storm on Wednesday and immediately began trending with the ruling sparking fierce debate between people ridiculing the court's decision whilst other calling it "progressive".

The judgement came after the court heard an appeal by a woman who sued her former live-in partner of five years to pay child support for their two children.  A lower court had previously ruled she was not owed any money because there was no "documentary" evidence of a legal marriage between the pair.
The court specified that - provided both parties are of legal age; 21 for a male and 18 for a female - if the couple decide to later separate, the "husband" would not be able to remarry without a "decree of divorce" from his partner.

Some commentators welcomed the court's decision. 

Apoorva Dutt, writing in Firstpost.com said: 'The judgement is, in effect, validating a live-in relationship, or what is legally known as a common-law marriage.  Common-law marriages are legal marriages which can be legally contradicted.  The couples, in these cases, have no marriage license and have not had any formal ceremony in front of witnesses.  They should have been co-habitating for a long time.'

She added: 'The court has legitimized a long-term cohabitation which results in children.  It has also legitimized the children, who will not have to bear the societal stigma of having been born out of wedlock.'

Author and legal expert Mihira Sood however, said the judgement was "poorly thought-out" and "strange".

Writing in IBNLive.com, Sood said: "The implication of this ruling seems to be that marriage is all and only about sex, and vice versa.  What would then be the position of a married couple that doesn't have sex, or if there are multiple sexual partners, or whether 'sexual gratification' as spoke of in the judgment includes non-penetrative forms of sexual interaction, or sexually charged interaction.  This ruling is very strange and must be challenged in the Supreme Court."

"The whole reason marriage registration or other procedures are laid down in law is because marriage is a legal institution that has a certain meaning and a certain place in public life, and to dismiss that as only for appeasement of society/religion is utterly misconceived. It is one thing for the Courts to provide legal protection in cases of live-in relationships or other marriage-like relationships, and quite another to extend it this far. Not only does it fail to understand the manner in which sexual interaction occurs in much of today's society, it also strips the institution of marriage of all meaning other than just legally recognised sex, while it is and has always been much more", she added.

Millions also took to Twitter to vent their anger at the ruling. 

One particularly popular re-tweet said: '"When did you get married?" is going to be the new "When did you lose your virginity?"'

Another said, "#MadrasHC has given me one more reason to feel low for being an Indian."
Others saw the funny side of it all.

"#MadrasHC, I'm sure there are ppl who are married 'n' number of times!"

"#MadrasHC, I would like to congratulate all my friends and colleagues on their unwitting marriages!"



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