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Are marriages becoming obsolete in the new world order?

Marriage occupies a very sacred place in the life of any individual in a society. Depending on the society, the manner and the concept of marriage is determined although in all its forms the purpose is to declare a legitimate relationship between a man and a woman. Any other relationship or a relationship outside the four-corners of marriage rules, albeit in existence, was never an accepted part of the society.

With changing times, society also changes and the forms of relationships also change either by recognizing new forms of relationships or by leaving redundant few old ones, mostly through the instrument of law. But such change in relationships has always been directed towards recognition through marriage or attainment of a status equivalent to marriage. Neither of the two ways can be regarded as making the very concept of marriage obsolete.

The changes in the first mentioned manner began in the very early days itself and remains a continuous process. New relationships between same 'gotra', under the Indian marriage laws, have been accorded a status of marriage. On the other hand, few age-old practices like child marriage have been made punishable now. Thus, the ambit of a lawful marriage relationship keeps changing from time to time without really undermining the very social concept of marriage.

Coming to the recognition to new relationships in society seeking to give a status equal to marriage, is sometimes perceived by few as undermining the sanctity of marriage. Even those few individuals, who prefer relationships outside the well-accepted concept of marriage, do sometimes believe marriage as an obsolete concept. But the fact that ultimately they also seek remedy as are available under the institution of marriage stands proof to the importance of the concept, more so legally, even in the modern times.

The concept of Live-in relationship is often misunderstood. The purpose of clothing with the protection given to a wife within a marriage to the other women in a live-in setup was out of necessity arising out of few circumstances. There have been instances when few women were put under impression of a lawful relationship of marriage by performing ceremonies that never fulfilled the criteria for the legal validity and when the woman approached courts for justice then it would be discovered that they would not qualify for the protection due to absence of marriage ceremony. Thus, a protection equal to that under marriage was sought to be given under laws like the Domestic Violence Act, 2015. This purpose should not be over-stretched to all the relations outside marriage as the initial reasoning or objective was not to undermine the legal position of marriage as against that subsisting even without marriage.

The concept of live-in has, however, gained so much of acceptance that many believe marriage as an unnecessary formality so long as trust and love prevails in the relationship but ironically in case of any unforeseen mis-happening or hardship, the protection umbrella of marriage is invoked. This, rather, establishes the importance of social and legal recognition in the form of or equivalent to a marriage and this does not make it an obsolete concept.

A.R. Rajeswari

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