Express View on parental consent for love marriages: Uncles vs Constitution


Oh, the Constitution. It seems to be standing in the way of the best laid plans of overbearing uncles, across party lines, in Gujarat. At a Patidar community event, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel mooted a study to look into whether “something can be done to ensure that parental consent is there in it (love marriages)”. The noble objective of making consenting adults seek permission from their parents to live how they choose will be explored unless “the Constitution becomes a hindrance”. Congress MLA Imran Khedawala immediately expressed his support for the idea. His logic behind demanding an amendment to the Gujarat Registration of Marriages Act, 2009 is simple: “Parents raise their children, so their consent should be made mandatory.”

What do adults owe their parents? A debt of gratitude, in some cases. Perhaps an allowance, if you want to get pecuniary. But the once-children, now grown up, can also present a bill for the traumas. For the scars, pressures and anxieties that they are forced to carry because of the demands of family, society and then, jobs and children of their own. At what point, in a society where “I” is just a letter in “family” or “religion”, does the burden end?

A “love marriage” in India is, among many other things, a manifestation of agency. It is an expression of individual desire, of a couple saying that the family they will build is their own. In a society where policing the boundaries of social groups has deep historical roots, it is easy to imagine why conservatives across parties fear a world where the only consent required is from the individuals involved. Fortunately, the Constitution of India is more progressive than its politicians. And for all the parents, overbearing uncles and assorted guardians of community pride worried that their grown up children might actually grow up, tough luck. At least for now, love is not illegal.





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