The Madras High Court on Tuesday said a couple in a consensual sexual relationship will be considered 'married'.
The judgement came during an alimony hearing. The mother of two from Coimbatore was left by the man, who fathered her children. A court in Coimbatore had directed the man to pay maintenance for the children. However, the woman was denied alimony as she did not have valid documents of a marriage.
While hearing the woman's appeal on Tuesday, the Madras High Court granted her alimony, saying, "Even if the girl does not become pregnant after having sexual relationship with a man but if there is strong documentary evidence to show such existence of such a relationship, then also the couple involved in such acts would be termed as wife and husband. If both decide to separate, the husband cannot marry without getting a decree of divorce from the court."
"Once the sexual relationship between a man and woman is consummated, they become husband and wife, and rituals are but formalities for societal satisfaction," the court added.
Many say this order could open up floodgates. Geeta Ramaseshan, a renowned advocate and rights activist, told NDTV, "People do have a relationship but they don't marry. If we are going to say merely because they had physical intimacy that should be treated as marriage, it is something that could be fraught with difficulties and concerns."
Jennifer Sharmilla, a student, says, "For the young in India, pre-marital sex is not a sign of commitment and this order would lead to more chaos''.
There are also apprehensions that this could be misused by both men and women.
However, many feel this would help lots of poor women, who do not get married in a formal way and do not have any legal documents of their marriage.
Many people have also cited several grey areas like sex outside marriage, and promiscuity.