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Live-in to legal, community weddings empower women

  • Published
    18th Apr, 2022

A tribal community of Jharkhand following ‘Dhuku’ tradition of live-in relationship, as they are unable to marry due to poverty in the community.

  • They are getting married through ‘community marriages’ organised by the help of a NGO and facilitated by district administration and Coal India Ltd in the state.
  • The concept of Live-in is not new in India, it was known with several names since the ancient times.
    • It was known as ‘maitri-karar’in which a written agreement was made between people of two opposite sex that they would live together as friends and look after each other.
  • Similarly, Gandharva marriage, one of the eight Hindu marriages, has its roots in the concept of live-in.
    • A man and woman meet each other of their own accord, consent to live together, and their relationship is converted to copulation born of passion.

What is Dhuku marriage?

  • Staying with a man in a relationship, bearing their children without getting married, without any social acceptance and legal rights - this is an Adivasi tradition in Jharkhand, known as 'dhuku marriage'.
  • According to the tribal community norm, the woman is recognised as ‘Dhukni’ and the man is called 'Dhukua'.

Highlights of the tradition

  • It is a civil cohabitation and is approved before and after pregnancy and even after the birth of children.
  • But dhuku marriages are a social banefor tribals in Jharkhand.
  • The Munda, Oraon, and Ho tribes primarily practice Dhukna in tribal-dominated rural areas of Jharkhand, and such marriages have been flourishing in patriarchal tribal communities for centuries due to poverty and illiteracy.
  • Dhuku marriage is a compulsion, not a choice, and tribals for centuries have been deprived of basic social recognition and respect because of poverty.

Legality of live-in relationships

  • In India, no specific legislation or customs is governing the same.
  • Thus, the Supreme Court has elaborated the concept of live-in relations through its Judgments and has issued guidelines to deal with such relationships.
  • In the case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P, the Court held that though live-in relationships are perceived as immoral it is not an offence under the law.
  • In another famous case of Khushboo v. Kanaimmal and Anr. the Supreme Court held that living together is a right to life covered under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution; thus, despite being considered immoral by society it is not an offence in the eye of law.
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