Let's face it! We still inhabit a society that gets too worked with the idea of sex and relationships that are anything apart from the conventional stereotypes. Being a bachelor and committed in India can be like a Khatron Ke Khiladi adventure for some people.
But we live in the 21st century, and there are legal rights and laws in place for everything. However, not all laws in place are super progressive. Here are 12 rights and laws surrounding sex and relationships in India that every Indian must know.
1. You can have sex with your partner without being married to them.
You don't have to be married to your partner to have sex with them. It's perfectly okay for two consenting adults — homosexual or heterosexual — to have consensual sex in private.
2. Same sex marriages are not legally recognized in India.
Now, you may come at me and ask that Section 377 decriminalised homosexuality in India. The fact is that in the landmark judgment of Navjet Singh Johar and others v. Union of India (2018), the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India decriminalised all consensual sex between two consenting adults. This included homosexual sex.
However, if you talk about spousal rights, then no, India does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions even though the courts continue to hear petitions in favour of the same.
3. Live-in relationship between two unmarried individuals is not illegal in India.
However, good luck finding such places!
4. A child born out of a long live-in relationship has rights over ancestral property of the parents.
A child born out of a live-in relationship is legitimate. If the couple lived together for a significant time, the law would presume them married.
Moreover, in another judgment in Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Anr vs Kattukandi Edathil Valsan & Ors., the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India ruled that if a couple cohabitated for a prolonged period, their child has a right over ancestral property.
5. You can check-in with your partner in a hotel if you're unmarried.
Two consenting adults are allowed to check in a hotel in India with valid ID proofs. However, there are hotels that still won’t allow unmarried couples to check-in a hotel. That’s just the conservatism of the society we live in.
6. As a woman, you have the right to seek abortion in India. But with a doctor's approval.
Every woman — married or unmarried — is allowed to terminate unwanted pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation period. In cases of reserved categories of women who are minors or rape & incest survivors, the termination limit has been extended up to 24 weeks.
However, termination is in keeping with a doctor's approval. Moreover, women in reserved categories seeking abortion between 20-24 weeks will need approval from two doctors. This means that even though women have the autonomy to seek an abortion, they still need a green flag from doctors.
7. You can hang out and sit with your partner in public places.
You can ignore those baseless moral judgments of your known or even unknown aunties and uncles who have nothing better to do. You can hang out with your partner as long as you are not doing anything ‘obscene' in public.
As per Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, the act of obscenity causing "annoyance of others" can be punished with a fine and imprisonment of up to 3 months. However, what's considered obscene still remains highly subjective since the law is not very clear about it. The word often gets brutally exploited because of conservatism in our society.
8. Marital rape is not a crime in India. AS OF NOW.
India remains one of the 34 countries that are yet to criminalise marital rape. Unless the sex is done with a minor under 15 years of age, it's not an offence even if the sex is not consensual. Essentially, any jerk can force himself on his wife without the fear of law because criminalising marital rape “may amount to excessive interference with the marital relationship.”
9. Even in a live-in with your partner, you can seek protection from an abusive relationship.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 acknowledges the right of a woman who was in a domestic relationship with a person "related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family" to seek protection against domestic violence.
10. Private sex work is not illegal in India. Running a brothel is.
India is one of the leading hubs of the commercial sex industry. Apparently, in our country, private prostitution is not illegal per se. However, associated activities such as child prostitution, human trafficking, running a brothel, prostitution in a hotel, and pimping are illegal.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has even acknowledged the right of sex workers to be treated with basic human dignity and decency as the cops are known to be hostile against them. Even during raids in a brothel, sex workers should not be arrested or harassed.
11. Unmarried couples can rent and even buy a house together.
There is no law that prohibits two consenting adults from owning a joint property or renting a place together. But, you cannot avail joint housing loans with your partner and it even depends on certain States. While renting, the couples must keep in mind that the agreement should contain the names of both partners.
12. You can stay in a hotel with your partner without any fears.
If you're an adult who has checked in a hotel with your partner with valid ID proof, there's literally nothing to fear about. Police cannot harass you for the same.
While there are some progressive laws in place, we're a work-in-progress. It's high time that same-sex marriages get legal recognition and marital rape is criminalized in India