Gen-Z Says, Live And Let Live-In

Uttarakhand’s Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill sparks debate on individual freedom, privacy rights, and the evolution of social norms in today’s world where many youngsters are opting for live-in relationships

The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill 2024 on Wednesday despite public protests and the Opposition’s demand to hand it over to the House’s select committee first. The UCC Bill 2024 has triggered a debate among Gen-Z because it mandates compulsory registration of live-in relationships. Non-compliance can invite penalties and jail. Like it or not, live-in relationships are increasingly common among the younger generation today. Fearing that other states may follow suit, many young adults feel it (UCC) is an invasion of privacy and violates their Constitutional rights.

Love Without Labels

The bill defines a live-in relationship as one between a man and a woman who cohabit in a shared household "in the nature of marriage." Unfortunately, there's no provision for same-sex couples in this legislation. The definition itself has raised concerns about its ambiguity and potential for misinterpretation among people.

The UCC mandates all persons in live-in relationships residing in Uttarakhand, regardless of whether they are residents of the state or not, to submit a ‘live-in relationship statement’ to the concerned Registrar in whose jurisdiction they are staying within a month of living together. The fallout/breakup of the couple is also to be duly informed to the Registrar. This applies even to those Uttarakhandis who are staying outside the state.

Ridhima Kundra Ahir (33), an executive producer at Travelxp, who has been in a live-in relationship with her partner for eight years says that both their families are aware of their relationship status. Ahir says, “But there are a lot of people of opposite genders who are living together to pay off rental bills or some are living as friends with benefits. In either of the cases, a registrar who is a third party doesn’t have any right to be involved in their personal matters.”

Matter Of Privacy

Whether one is in a live-in relationship currently or not, many people opine that the Bill is a ‘breach of privacy’. Many live-in couples don’t wish to partake in the culture of revealing their relationship status to their family and friends or on social media. However, a personal choice that the couple once decided regarding their live-in relationship is soon to be converted into a law that binds the couple to publicly disclose their personal lives. The counterargument given by some to the said disappointment is “all rights are not absolute and are subject to reasonable restrictions.” Dr Aman Bhonsle, a psychotherapist and relationship counsellor says, “Men may opt for live-in relationships over marriage to avoid financial burdens post-breakup. They seek the benefits of stability without the hefty costs associated with divorce.”

Youngsters (under 21 years of age) who come from a broken family or unsupportive parents will have the potential pressure of justifying their live-in relationship to the Registrar. Jiyaajit Kaur Sethi (23), a nutritionist and painless period coach who is keen to get into a live-in relationship says, “It allows couples to understand not just each other’s personalities but manage finances, divide household chores and navigate through each other’s behaviour and conflicting schedules.” The Bill is said to have taken a view of the trend of the live-in relationship in the wake of rising crime such as one of the most brutal cases – the Aftab Poonawala-Shraddha murder case. However, many Gen-Zers took to social media and questioned the decriminalisation of marital rape. Jiyaajit says that it is scary that marital rape is not yet recognised, but registrars will have the power to vet consenting adult relationships. “One thing common between both the cases is lack of consent. When two adults are consenting for a live-in it should be their right. However, in case of marital rape, when one person is not consenting to sexual intercourse, it becomes the right of the other person to still perform the act just because they are a married couple,” she says.

Law & Behold

Amongst all the provisions mentioned in the Bill about live-in relationships, the punishment for non-compliance has infuriated many people. Anyone providing false information in a live-in relationship statement, affecting the Registrar’s decision, faces up to three months of imprisonment or a fine of up to `25,000. Failing to submit the statement even after notification by the officials can also lead up to six months of imprisonment or a fine up to `25,000 or both. “Are we criminals, if we don’t register our live-in relationship?” is one of the most prominent questions that many Gen-Zers and millennials are asking. Advocate Kanika Bhardwaj who practices in the Supreme Court says, “Jail and criminal proceedings for not revealing your status is so absurd. There needs to be a major need for amendment in this particular part because it is not a crime.”

Critics pointed out that Inter-caste or inter-faith couples may not want to register their relationships due to the social stigma or opposition over their relationships. Jiyaajit says, “Getting the allowance of a Registrar in a democratic country is undemocratic. And how does the Registrar classify if the two consenting adults are compatible or not to live together?” She adds, “I don’t know what the difference would be between a marriage and a live-in relationship if you need to have a certificate for each of them.”

Beyond Black & White

Legal experts opine that the Bill has several loopholes, including how will someone know that a man and a woman are in a romantic live-in relationship. However, concerns remain about potential misuse of the law. The ambiguous definition of live-in could lead to misinterpretation and misuse against unmarried couples who share accommodation for reasons other than romantic relationships, such as roommates or siblings. “There are certain legal stipulations that guide the smooth running of society. For every lobby, a counter lobby may spring up that explores loopholes within legal boundaries. What if there is a plausible deniability claim of the live-in relationship status by people stating that they are cohabiting with siblings, colleagues, or work partners?” says Dr Aman.

Advocate Bhardwaj believes that it is a complex Bill to enact. “Currently, there is a multiplicity of litigations, loopholes, complications, and contradictions in the Bill. Also, there are pre-existing laws for issues like maintenance and inheritance. The implementation of the potential act is the main key, so we will have to wait to get better clarity of the picture as of now.”

It allows couples to understand not just each other's personalities but manage finances, divide household chores and navigate through each other's behaviour and conflicting schedules.” — Jiyaajit Kaur Sethi, nutritionist and painless period coach


John Abraham and Bipasha Basu were in a live-in relationship for several years before they split and got married to their respective partners

Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor lived together for some years before getting married in 2012

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh reportedly lived together before their marriage in 2018

Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor reportedly were in a live-in relationship before getting married

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma were reportedly in a live-in relationship before tying the knot in 2017

Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao were in a live-in relation-ship before their marriage, they divorced later

Kunal Khemu and Soha Ali Khan were in a live-in relationship before getting married

Jail and criminal proceedings for not revealing your status is so absurd. There needs to be a major need for amendment in this particular part because it is not a crime.”— Kanika Bhardwaj, SC lawyer

Men may opt for live-in relationships over marriage to avoid financial burdens post-breakup.” — Dr Aman Bhonsle, psychotherapist and relationship counsellor

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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