So yesterday, I wake up, turn on the computer, get online. Browse. Drink tea. Wander into The Hindu website, since it’s one of India’s more readable English newspapers. There I read this headline: 

Couples who have premarital sex to be considered ‘married’, says HC.

Choke on tea. Recover. Click on link and begin reading.

If any unmarried couple of the right legal age “indulge in sexual gratification,” this will be considered a valid marriage and they could be termed “husband and wife,” the Madras High Court has ruled in a judgment that gives a new twist to the concept of premarital sex.

Which means if the sex wasn’t gratifying, the couple shouldn’t be considered married? That’s going to drastically cut down on the number of “valid” marriages in India. What if it’s gratifying for one but not the other? Also, what if the couple don’t want to be considered married?

“Consequently, if any couple choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations.” [said Justice CS Karnan]

The court said marriage formalities as per various religious customs such as the tying of a mangalsutra, the exchange of garlands and rings or the registering of a marriage were only to comply with religious customs for the satisfaction of society.

It’s good to know that Justice Karnan is open to the idea of people having sex outside of marriage and that he has the good sense to know marriage rituals are basically tosh. But if having premarital sex turns a couple into husband and wife then technically, the sex isn’t premarital, is it? What we have in such a situation is premarital foreplay. The only possible means of having premarital sex is masturbation.

And what happens if one of the people choosing to consummate their sexual cravings with total commitment is married to someone else? Does that mean we can get in touch with ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends and demand alimony or compensation for mental distress caused by the break-up?

The court further said if necessary either party to a relationship could approach a Family Court for a declaration of marital status by supplying documentary proof for a sexual relationship.

What the eff is documentary proof of a sexual relationship? Are men supposed to keep the used condoms? Should women Instagram strategic moments? Should couples sign post-coital agreements (“I, XXXX, do hereby declare that I chose to consummate my sexual craving for YYYY with total commitment and with YYYY’s active participation in the process. The episode was conducted satisfactorily and I would like to state that at the time of signing, I feel sexually gratified.”)? Would such agreements need witnesses? Does this mean amateur p0rn actors’ portfolio would make them guilty of polygamy and polyandry?

Once such a declaration was obtained, a woman could establish herself as the man’s wife in government records. “Legal rights applicable to normal wedded couples will also be applicable to couples who have had sexual relationships which are established.”

Excellent news. It’s about time more people in India woke up to the fact that marriage isn’t the only kind of committed relationship.

The court also said if after having a sexual relationship, the couple decided to separate due to difference of opinion, the ‘husband’ could not marry without getting a decree of divorce from the ‘wife’.

Whoa! This means men have to get the approval of ex-girlfriends before they marry someone? Do ex-boyfriends enjoy a similar veto?

“It is not disputed that the petitioner has been a spinster before she gave birth and that the respondent was a bachelor before developing sexual relationship with the petitioner. Both of them led their marital life under the same shelter and begot two children. Therefore, the petitioner’s rank has been elevated as the `wife’ of the respondent and likewise, the respondent’s rank has been elevated as the `husband’ of the petitioner. Therefore, the children born to them are legitimate children and the petitioner is the legitimate wife of the respondent.”

The judge directed the woman’s husband to pay her a monthly maintenance of Rs.500 from the date of petition, i.e. from September 2000. The arrears of maintenance up to May this year should be paid within a period of three months.

This husband sounds like a bit of a snake. Glad Justice Karnan has looked out for the woman and the children, even though “spinster” isn’t a particularly nice word. He could just have said she was single instead of using a word that carries with it connotations of “crazy cat lady”. But that’s nitty-gritty. This man should totally take some responsibility for the children he’s fathered and it’s appalling that a different court had actually ruled in favour of the dude who had the gall to say, “I didn’t marry her so why should I pay for the kids? Yes, my semen played a critical part in making these particular babies, but how is that relevant if she isn’t my lawfully wedded wife?” Freak.

By this time, Twitter was ablaze with comments from Indians all over the world who were trying to figure out how many times they’ve been married and whether it’s legally possible to have married oneself. The clicks on The Hindu‘s website must have been stupendous, because the newspaper clearly lost its marbles for a little bit — it actually carried an article that basically said, “Everyone tweeted our article! How cool are we!” Except that is so not cool. It’s actually pretty lame.

Then this morning, there was a clarification from Justice Karnan.

If a bachelor aged 21 years or above and a spinster aged 18 years or above had pre-marital sex with intention to marry and subsequent to this the man deserts the woman the victim woman can approach a civil forum for remedy after producing necessary substantial evidence to grant her social status as wife. This remedy is not only for the purpose of giving relief to the victim woman but also to maintain the cultural integrity of India.

Thank you, sir, for clarifying the legal age, but it may have been more helpful to let us know what he meant by “necessary substantial evidence”. And might I direct Justice Karnan to the definition of the word “spinster”? According to Oxford Dictionaries, it’s “an unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage”. Eighteen’s a bit young to be called a spinster, no? Most importantly, premarital sex has the power to transform dating couples into husband and wife in order to “maintain the cultural integrity of India”? Means what? What do two people’s relationship status and sexual relations have to do with the nation’s cultural integrity?

The law permits the affected woman to initiate criminal proceedings against her paramour for cheating her and deserting her after making a promise of marriage, but there is no provision to approach the civil forum for her remedy. The High Court is the Apex Court of this state and constitutional authority. Therefore, this Court has given the legal relief to the affected woman.

Terribly kind of you, Your Honour. What about men affected in similar fashion? They do occasionally get cheated upon and deserted. In fact, given how most Indian men behave, it’s quite amazing most of them don’t get such treatment.

And so it was, that a well-meaning judge who did the right thing but using the wrong words ended up making the past 24 hours decidedly fun even though the sight of “#MadrasHC” now makes me go like this:


5 thoughts on “Courting Trouble

    • The thing is, the intentions certainly seemed good enough and like someone told me, “His heart is in the right place. He just worded it a little awkwardly.” But if you can’t trust a judge to use the right words and phraseology, then that’s deeply screwed up.

    • Yeah, seen that. It’s giving the benefit of doubt to the judge, which is fair enough. You can focus on the fact that he’s referring to a particular case, but he did also make those general statements. And that was published before the judge sent his clarification, which really doesn’t help the judge’s case much sadly.

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