March 25, 2010
“He that hath a wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.” – Francis Bacon, English writer and philosopher (1561-1626).
Many have been indulging in great enterprises, including sex, outside the confines of holy matrimony. Now, supporting Bacon is Indian Supreme Court. But, first the facts.
Though they say that marriages are made in heaven, those who choose not to enter holy matrimony, preferring to take the increasingly fashionable live-in route and pre-marital sex , have the affirmative imprimatur of the Supreme Court of India. It has opened the legal floodgates for extra-marital sex and live-in arrangement . While hearing a petition by South Indian film actress Khushboo, a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and justices Deepak Verma and BS Chouhan, on March 23, 2010, observed: “When two adult people want to live together what is the offence? Does it amount to an offence? Living together is not an offence. It cannot be an offence.”
The apex court Bench made this observation while reserving its judgment on a special leave petition by Khushboo seeking to quash 22 criminal cases filed against her after she allegedly endorsed pre-marital sex in interviews to media in 2005. Her defence is irrelevant to the subject under discussion; but the Bench gave enough idea as to where it stands on pre-marital sex and live-in relationships. It said even Lord Krishna and Radha lived together according to mythology. It said that there is no law which prohibits live-in relationship or pre-marital sex. The judges questioned the advocates of some of the complainants and repeatedly stressed that the perceived immoral activities cannot be branded as (legal) offence.
Asking the complainants’ lawyers to tell the court how living-in constituted an offence and under which Section of the Indian Penal Code, the Bench said: “Living together is a right to life”. Noting that Khushboo’s views were personal, the Bench said: “How does it concern you? How is it an offence? Under which provision of the law?” When asked by the court whether any of the complainants had daughters, the response was negative, forcing the Bench to question: “Then, how are you adversely affected?”
It may be recalled that last year the Supreme Court had struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality to the euphoric delight of gays and lesbians. While same-sex union is a fairly recently surfaced issue, the sanctity of marriage as an institution goes back to Adam and Eve, when God created Eve by slicing Adam’s rib so that he may have a wife as companion and to ensure procreation. Old Testament articulates this: “It is not good that the man should be alone (Genesis 11 – 18) And it is also enjoined in the Bible that what God joins together, let no man put assunder. Yet, there have been subtle sniping at the institution of indissoluble bonds of holy matrimony. Sample, for instance, the following:
“Marriages and hanging go by destiny;
Matches are made in heaven.”
-- Robert Burton, English writer and humorist (1576-1640).
“The wedlock of minds will be greater than of bodies.”
-- Gerard Didier Erasmus, writer from Holland (1465-1538).
“When there is marriage without love,
there will be love without marriage.”
-- Benjamin Franklin, US statesman (1706-1790).
“Man and wife
Coupled together for the sake of strife.”
-- Charles Churchill, English poet and satirist (1731-1764).
“It happens as one sees in cages: The birds which are outside despair of ever getting in, and those within are equally desirous of getting out.”
--Michael Montaigne, French philosopher (1533-1592).
“Marriage is a desperate thing.”
-- John Seldon, English jurist (1584-1654).
“Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.”
-- William Shakespeare, English dramatic poet (1564-1616) in The Merchant of Venice.
“A world-without-end bargain.”
–Shakespeare in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Legal floodgates have now been opened for same-sex union, pre-marital sex and live-in relationships. What next? Group sex and switched partners?
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