Why the opinion of Rajasthan Human Rights Commission on live-in relations is derogatory?

Published: October 1, 2019

A live-in relation is one in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long term relationship that resembles a marriage.

Rajasthan Human Rights Commission on Live-In Relations

  • The commission issued an order asking the state government and the Centre to prohibit the practice of live-in relationships.
  • The commission claimed that women who opt for live-in relationships are like “concubines” and a woman has to sacrifice her right to a dignified life in live-in relationships
  • Women in live-in relationships are not able to secure their fundamental rights. It was the duty of the state government and human right activists to run awareness campaigns against such cohabitation outside marital boundaries.

Why these proclamations by Rajasthan Human Rights Commission are problematic?

Violates Fundamental Rights

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech and expression. This includes the freedom to express one’s identity, sexual preferences, and love.

The right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 includes the right to privacy and how to organise one’s personal intimacies is an important facet of the right to privacy, therefore is outside the purview of the state.

Demanding that the government to prohibit live-in relationships is a contempt of the decisions of the apex court which has given a very broad ambit to the fundamental rights under article 19 and 21.

Sexist and Derogatory

The language of the SHRC exhibits sexist and heteronormative stereotypes and ignores social reality. It labels women in live-in relationships as ‘kept’ and concubines. It ignores the possibility that such relationships could be a viable alternative in cases where marriage is legally or socially prohibited.

The commission assumes that marriage is, or ought to be, the only relationship through which women sexually associate with men and it equates women who cohabit with concubines. It entrenches the patriarchal dichotomy: women can either be good women who abide by the societal boundaries set for them or bad women who dare transgress these boundaries.

What is more worrying is this language was used by a body which is tasked with protecting and upholding human rights is making the proclamations doubly egregious.

This kind of language in the order is likely to create a chilling effect, preventing vulnerable citizens, in need of legal protection, from seeking redress.

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