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Sunday 4 December 2016

Court ruling a milestone in India's sexual revolution

Jeremy Page in Delhi

Published 25/03/2010 | 05:00

India's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that unmarried couples have the right to live together after hearing a case involving a Tamil actress accused of corrupting young minds by promoting premarital sex.

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The judges said even the Hindu gods, Lord Krishna and Radha, were cohabiting lovers rather than man and wife. "When two adult people want to live together, what is the offence?" they said. "Living together is not an offence. Living together is a right to life."

The ruling marks a legal milestone in India's sexual revolution as younger urban professionals steadily break down traditional taboos. It is unlikely, however, to change habits among most Indians, who rarely indulge in premarital sex, let alone cohabit with lovers, and usually have their spouses chosen by their parents.

The actress, who goes by the name Kushboo, had appealed to the court to quash more than 20 cases against her in 2005 after she made allegedly immoral comments in magazine interviews. She told one publication that "no educated man would expect his (bride) to be a virgin". The comments led to outrage in parts of southern India, where she is a star of Tamil-language movies.

The judges, however, challenged lawyers for the complainants to produce evidence of any girl running away with a lover in response to Kushboo's comments. "Please tell us what is the offence and under which section should she be charged? Tell me how many people have been affected by Kushboo's statement?" asked Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.

Kushboo (39) went to the Supreme Court after a court in Madras dismissed her 2008 plea to quash the criminal cases against her.

The government does not give statistics on unmarried couples cohabiting but a study by the Mumbai-based International Institute for Population Sciences last month showed that 17pc of young men in rural areas said they had premarital sex, compared with 10pc in cities. In the survey of 55,000 women and men aged 15 to 29, 4pc of women in rural areas said they had had premarital sex compared with 2pc in the cities. (© The Times, London)

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