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This article is written by Prabha Dabral, from IMS Unison University, Dehradun. This article deals with the concept of marriage and whether it can survive the modern outlook of today’s youngsters.

Introduction 

The concept of marriage today is very different from what it was a hundred years back. Earlier, the groom and the bride were not even aware of whom they are getting married to as the decision purely depends on their parents. But, today the bride and groom themselves decide who they wish to marry. The gender roles in marriages are redefined too. Women are also taking part in financially securing their families. With the rise in feminism, the economic realities of marriage have also changed. With these changes, divorces have also become socially acceptable. Hence, the number of successful marriages that stand the test of time is decreasing today.

The present generation considers divorce a better way because they realize that a marriage should not be enforced for the sake of societal validation. If it is not working out then there is no way out. Marriage is not a lifelong compromise for the present generation. Thus, this thinking has led to unnecessary divorces among the married couples. Regarding this ideology of youngsters today, Madras High Court has taken a serious note of this thinking and stated that the present generation does not think twice before filing for a divorce which results in too many divorce cases before family courts.

Traditional marriage vis à vis modern marriage 

Over the past years, the meaning of marriage has been twisted as per the individual’s mindset. It has lost its true meaning and has undergone various changes. Hence, we can compare them with today’s concept of marriage. Both of these aspects of marriage have their own pros and cons.

Traditional marriage

Traditionally, a marriage gets fixed by the parents i.e. arrange marriage. The bride and groom see each other at their wedding only and are supposed to live with each other for the rest of their life. The woman in the relationship is advised to adjust with her husband and to never break the marriage at any point in time. The reason behind this is, our traditional marriage is considered a sacred bond where the husband and wife share all the ups and downs in their married life with an equal mentality.

Though traditional marriages are regarded as supreme, it has its cons too. For example, a wife being crushed into submission by her chauvinistic husband. Here, as per the advice, a woman is supposed to adjust and hence she lacks confidence that she could ever live a life without being dependent on her husband. This is the major issue with traditional marriages.

Modern marriage

Marriage in today’s time follows the same tradition but this generation has its own version as per the modern world. The bride and the groom themselves decide who they wish to marry and then marry with the permission of their parents. They choose their partners themselves and decide if they want to keep the marriage or break it later by filing a divorce. The present generation realizes that marriage is not a lifelong compromise. This means if you are not happy in your marriage, then you can just come out of it rather than staying in it and harming your own mental health. They do not wish to marry for the sake of societal validation. They believe marriage is not the eternal goal and it should not be considered to be one.

Nowadays, couples want to explore various ways of living a life. Hence, Live-in relationships have become very common. Apart from these, the future may also see new forms of marriage like same-sex marriage. There are different kinds of relationships that exist among couples in the modern era. They are:-

Same-Sex marriage     

This is the type of marriage between homosexuals. Homosexuals are the people who are attracted to the same gender. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dealt with the criminalization of homosexuality but in a historic verdict in 2018, the Supreme Court decriminalised this Section. Though same-sex marriages are not legal in India, with the decriminalization of Section 377, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) community is looking forward to getting marriage rights as well. In the United States, this type of marriage is legalized but in India, it is yet to be decided.

Live-in relationships

It is not a marriage but a type of relationship in which both the partners are adult and unmarried. This was defined by the Supreme Court in the case Indra Sharma v. V.K.V. Sharma. If the requisites of marriage are fulfilled, the couple is considered to be in a legal live-in relationship. The requisites are- fulfillment of the legal age of marriage, mental soundness, consent, etc. Couples nowadays prefer live-in relationships more as in these the partners don’t force obligations. Here, there is no law binding on the couples to stay in the relationship. Either of them can anytime move out of the relationship. The children born out of these types of relationships are legitimate and have the right of inheritance too.

Comparison between the two

Inter-caste marriages

Traditionally, parents used to select the bride or groom for their children from the same caste as theirs. They do not want to defy the traditional barriers by getting their children married to a person out of their caste or religion, whereas this is not the case today. The youth now have a saying and choice in their marriage. Though there are many places in our country where intercaste marriage is still taboo, our law does not consider intercaste marriages to be illegal. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 deals with inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. This Act provides for a unique form of marriage by registration where the partners do not need to renounce their religion.

Social norms

Traditional marriage is conservative. It suggests that no matter what happens in a relationship, one must always hold onto their marriage, whereas the modern couple’s outlook on marriage is hasty and reckless i.e. they do not worry much about the risks and possible results of their actions. Today’s youngsters are of the view that letting go of marriage is better if it is not working for you.

Tolerance level

Couples in traditional marriages had tons of patience and knew how to adjust, whereas couples in modern marriages lack patience and are intolerant which later becomes a reason for divorce.

Financial status

In traditional marriages, women were supposed to stay back at home and look after their family and were financially dependent on their husbands, whereas, in modern marriages, women are more confident and working. Hence, they are financially independent and can make their family financially secure.

Gender roles

In traditional marriage, responsibilities were divided as per their gender, i.e. husband is supposed to take care of the family financially by working out of home and the wife has to look after her family by being at home doing cooking, cleaning, and raising children, whereas, in modern marriage, husband and wife share equal responsibilities. Most modern husbands participate in taking care of the children and even take paternity care leave to stay at home with the children. There are no provisions for paternity leave in private sectors yet but government employees may apply for paternity leave up to 15 days. This provision was made by the Central government in 1999 under the Rule 43 (A) of  Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules 1972.

Decision-making power

In traditional marriages, spouses were trapped in predefined roles which they can never leave. Like the role of a married woman was to be a homemaker and to suppress the ambitions that they might have had, whereas, in modern marriages, spouses have freedom for individual preferences. Here, the woman is also in equal control and power to make decisions for the family.

Madras High Court’s observation on the concept of marriage among the present generation

In a recent case of Annapoorani v. S. Ritesh, the Madras High Court observed that the present generation has taken the concept of two people marrying, so lightly that even on petty issues they are ready to break the marriage by filing a divorce. Justice V. Bhavani Subbaroyan specially remarked that in today’s generation, couples are intolerant and are unmindful of the institution of marriage. 

Facts of the case 

The husband filed a petition against his wife seeking for declaration of his marriage as null and void. He wanted a divorce on the ground that his wife can not give birth to a child as she is suffering from  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). He further added that his wife was not fit for cohabitation because of this reason. He claimed that PCOS is impotence, hence he wants to end this marriage, under Section 12(1)(a) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, that took place between the couple in July 2018. Subsection (1) of this Section 12 talks about the grounds for voidable marriages in which impotency is one of the grounds. That means if a marriage cannot be consummated due to impotency then it can be annulled. The wife approached the court under Article 227 of the Constitution of India with a Civil Revision Petition to strike off the original petition (filed by the husband in Additional Family Court, in Chennai) on the ground that the invocation of Section 12(1)(a) was not sustainable by raising various grounds.

Judgment

The court held that a woman who is unable to give birth due to PCOS can not be referred to as impotent. PCOS is a condition that has nowadays become a common health issue among women due to mental stress and a contaminated environment. Moreover, marriage is not only about fulfilling biological needs but is also about companionship. The court dismissed the petition at the threshold as it was seen that the wife has not made out any ground that seeks the intervention of the court under Article 227 of the Indian Constitution. Consequently, the concerned miscellaneous petition is closed.

The key highlights of the observation 

As discussed in the above case, the husband wanted to divorce his wife because of only two reasons. Firstly, there was no cohabitation as his wife was almost 25 days on her menstrual cycle and the other reason was that she could not bear a child owing to that. The issue of incapability to bear a child is to be proved by the person who is claiming that his/her partner is incapacitated to give or bear the child. But in the above-discussed case, it was not proven that there is no cause of action for the averments disclosed by the husband in the petition because the cause of action was natural and not illusive.

It was observed that marriage is a holy bond between husband and wife and it not only limits biological needs and desires but also makes you a companion in life for each other. But the generation today is taking it so lightly that they refuse to adjust and be a forever companion of their spouse. Hence, there is an increase in the number of divorce cases before the family courts as these intolerant couples are ready to break their marriage over trivial issues. Couples are ready to throw their marriages away just for the sake of some petty issue. They have no concern to save the relationship and solve the issue as if the marriage means nothing to them. In the modern world, couples are too modern to accept the fact that marriages are forever. This was the observation of the High Court on marriage among the present generation.

Conclusion 

The present generation must adhere to what the Madras High Court has said. But that does not mean that they should be too traditional. In the modern world, the perception is outmoded that a woman is supposed to stay at home and look after her family. Hence, one can not afford to be too traditional as this will keep them far behind in this mercenary world. But in the process of becoming adaptable to the modern world, one must not think that the values taught in our old tradition do not apply to the modern concept of marriage. We must not lose respect for the age-old conception of marriage.

People should not be too traditional nor too modern in their marriages. They should find a neutral way so they can balance traditional values and modern thinking. For example, saying yes to an adjustable nature and having respect and tolerance for their marriage to survive but be modern enough to break it and speak about the injustice if ever done.

References


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