Monday, February 27, 2012


The recent suicide pact between a couple who were involved in an illicit relationship threw the entire media into a frenzy. What could have prompted them to take such drastic steps. Were they not aware that this relationship had no future?
Ofcourse they did, but for the moment let us put that aside and look at this in depth. Maybe there is a dichotomy in the evolving social norms and the legal system. The answers to this are not simple and will not be achieved in a short span of time however a thought has the power to bring about change.
Hinduism does not favour illicit relationships and adultery is considered a moral sin. Those who get caught in illicit affair have to face the wrath of the society. These actions, especially for women are rarely forgotten or forgiven. The Indian laws show a gender bias, not surprisingly as many of the laws have their basis on ancient Indian scriptures of Manusmriti. Women are considered property of a man, before marriage that of father and after marriage that of a man. It was believed that a woman will go astray because of her passions if the man is ‘weak’ and unable to control her. Certain customs and rituals such as kanya daan also reflect similar belief system behind the role of a woman.
“Day and night a woman must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under ones control “– Manusmriti (
It is no wonder that the current Indian law thinks it suitable to punish a man who is involved in an illicit relationship with a woman but the woman goes scot free. As the law stands today, adultery is only committed against the husband of the adulterous woman. A man cannot level an adultery charge against his wife but can do so against the "other man." The Indian law treats wives as their husbands' property and considers adultery is an offence that a man commits by trespassing upon the property (wife) of another. That is why she is not liable as an abettor.
Women cannot be accused of adultery as the law considers the position of a married woman “almost” as a property of her husband, ruled the Supreme Court in a recent judgement.
Let us look a little further into the social structure of marriage. Hinduism believes marriage is obligatory duty and sacrament. Marriage is not meant for sexual pleasure but to perform ones duty and for the purpose of procreation. A couple marries each other because they are soul partners in fulfilling their respective karmas on the way to salvation. This association may span over seven or more lifetimes, and has little to do whether they like each other or are in love with each other. During these life times husband and wife may interchange roles but remain entwined in their destiny to help each other attain salvation. Therefore the couple relationship is essentially the relationship of souls and emotions, lust and love have nothing to do with the union.
For a woman, marriage ends her relationship with her maternal family. It is symbolized by kanya dana where the brides father gives away his daughter and fulfils his karmas. The relationship with her maternal house is then formal and minimal. She also needs to behave in a manner wherein she will be accepted in the husband’s family, therefore marriage is a great stress for a woman. Often women in illicit relationships whether under duress or choice have no support from the maternal side. The societal pressure is tremendous on the partner who is engaging a married woman in an affair, which is punishable by law. Under such social and legal pressures, such relationships have an extremely difficult time ahead.
The issue gets more complicated if either of them have children out of wedlock or children from their respective marriages. The importance of parental fidelity to the psychological well-being of children cannot be underestimated. While an affair is taking place children sense that the parent is expending emotional energy outside the family. As a result the children may become anxious or frightened, or they may sense rejection and feel they have done something wrong. Moreover experts found, such children are prone to have affairs themselves when they marry. The child, eventually, after witnessing the hostile environment at home and the parental animosity resulting from the extra-marital of either of the parents, breaks down under the strain of conflict. The child’s distress may take the form of school related problems, anxiety, depression, bullying, victimization and sometimes even health related illness. This only adds on to the guilt of breaking away from society, family and children.
With the advent of the western influence, where one celebrates valentine’s day emotions such as love in a relationship are given increasing importance. Along with this the financial independence of a woman in today’s world seems to directly clash with the traditional role chalked out for her.
Often in counseling we come across couples struggling with betrayal of their spouse but do not have the strength to go ahead in the relationship. Living with a compromise with the spouse only gets emotionally dragging. There is a deep feeling of hurt and anger, which they individually express in the sessions and resolve them within themselves before they can communicate with each other and give a listening ear. Family and friends are unable to help because they are too close emotionally to either of them. A neutral and objective listening and perspective provided by a non-judgmental therapist goes a long way to accept themselves and the spouse.

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