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Policing marriage: Tamil Nadu tweaked the rules to involve parents

Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti! In Tamil Nadu, an official circular demanded that any couple that wants to marry under the Hindu Marriage Act, must produce their parents’ ID and address proof. This might not seem like a big deal to many, but it effectively involves the parents in what has always been a decision between two adults, in the presence of any witnesses they might choose.
If they do not approve of the relationship, the couple will not be able to easily exercise their right to marry. A choice that is a part of every citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty, was conditional on someone else’s approval. It was meant to deter relationships that transgress social boundaries – interfaith or intercaste marriages, or any relationship that one of the parents deems inappropriate. Following an uproar, the measure was this week rolled back almost six months after its introduction.
Tamil Nadu has witnessed cases of terrible violence visited upon young lovers, because they dared to defy their families and choose someone from another caste. While the change in the rules has long been demanded by caste groups who want to patrol the boundaries of romance, it was patently illegal. If two consenting adults want to get married, they do not need anyone’s permission. The law merely officiates the union and rules should not be allowed to go beyond this function.

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