When we say relationships are ‘respectable’, what do we often mean – especially when it comes to close relationships we choose, not those we are born into? Sometimes we mean those that are ‘allowed’ – by law, or by society. But a look at relationships endorsed in law shows us two things:
- Laws are constantly shaped and reshaped by people’s lives, the way relationships actually get practised as times change and viewpoints change. So the law is not a fixed and absolute thing – it reflects or can be made to reflect what we believe in.
- That we might be surprised by relationships recognised by law – some of which we might not imagine to be so in both good and bad ways.
*There are a myriad kinds of relationships in India, and a blurry but thick line exists between the law and what is actually practised. For example, as we’ve seen, homosexuality has been around long before it was made legal last year. And as we’ve also seen, just because it has been accepted in some ways by the law, that doesn’t mean it has been widely welcomed with social acceptance. Though this is changing too. Even as the law has expanded, it does not give all relationships the same kinds of rights and protections, or treat them with the same level of priority. But what about us – do we consider marriage a ‘serious’ relationship because the law says so? And do we consider other kinds of relationships – like friendship – to be not ‘serious’, because the law says so? What do we ourselves see as important? Perhaps thinking about what kinds of relationships are considered legally acceptable or not can help us re-assess this hierarchy for ourselves, recognising that law changes just as societies and people change.