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Defining a family in terms of a heterosexual marriage and biologcal kids is a patriarchal, capitalist construct that needs to be dismantled in favour of inclusion and equality.
In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court of India made a few observations challenging the popularly understood definition of a family as a nuclear unit made up of a heterosexual couple and their children in a judgement. They urged for the inclusion of atypical family units under the purview of laws.
The bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna pointed out that “familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships and queer relationships”. The judgement also mentioned that such non-conventional families deserve “not only protection under law but also benefits available under social welfare legislation”.
These observations were delivered with a judgement in the case of context a Central government employee who had been denied maternity leave because she had already availed child care leave earlier to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage.
What is a family unit? From Indian law to your next door neighbour, all seem to back the idea that a typical nuclear family consists of married man and woman and their kids. It is an unchanging unit and all laws are sculpted with the realities of such a family in mind. The maternity leave the woman had applied for was denied on the grounds of the non-traditional family setting she came from.
The laws of the land and social attitudes heavily disfavour single parent households or queer relationships. The basic human right to marry is not available to queer people even after almost four years of decriminalisation of the draconian Section 377. Even for households with single mothers, where laws have been amended recently to be inclusive of them, for instance abortion laws or adoption laws, the process is always riddled with complications that prohibit single women from smooth access.
Further, as the judgement pointed out that non-normative family structures due to death, separation or divorce, along with adoption or remarriage, can also alter the composition of a traditional family unit, which would then not fit the popular imagination around what a family consists of. These families “may not be typical but they are as real as their traditional counterparts”.
This judgement comes at a time when the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, have pronounced a string of progressive judgements attempting to broaden the scope of certain laws, by breaking the patterns of oppression traditional structures have put in place.
This could be seen in the Madras High court judge undertaking counselling to better understand non-normative sexualities before pronouncing a sensitive judgement, to the Kerala high court reuniting a lesbian couple who were separated by their parents. The Supreme Court recently also upheld single women’s right to accessing abortion under the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021. But that has proved to be not enough.
Such judgements need to be followed through by implementation and easing up the access to rights and welfare policies for the traditionally disenfranchised groups.
From inheritance to healthcare, many intrinsic rights of individuals are left beyond the purview of law in cases of live-in relationships and queer relationships, but as this judgement points out “the black letter of the law must not be relied upon to disadvantage families which are different from traditional ones”.
Defining a family in terms of a heterosexual marriage and biologcal kids is a patriarchal, capitalist construct that needs to be dismantled in favour of inclusion and equality. Families range from single parent households to chosen families of friends and queer people that go beyond the confines of a traditional marriage that feminists critique. And every one of these arrangements should be able to access the rights the individuals involved possess as equal citizens.
Image source: a still from the film Badhaai Do
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A postgraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy telling people about her cats. Adores walking around and exploring read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Neena Gupta’s take on love between a man and woman opens a can of worms. She’s speaking her truth, which is a reality for so many people, but is it universal?
Neena Gupta made a statement in her interview with Humans of Bombay that she doesn’t believe love exists between a man and a woman. She said it starts off with lust, which then changes into affection, and becomes a habit. The only love she’s ever known and felt is for her daughter, Masaba.
Neena is married to Vivek Mehra, a chartered accountant who she first met on a flight. Vivek Mehra has two children, and it’s his second marriage. It’s Neena’s second marriage too. She was earlier married at an early age of 20. She has one child, Masaba, from her previous relationship with the now retired West Indian cricketer, Vivian Richards.
Her statement about love evoked some vehement reactions ranging from she’s not met the right man to “blood runs thicker than water”.
Emotional Eating: the practice of finding comfort in food is common and if unregulated can lead to eating complications. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can cope up with emotional eating.
Do you find yourself reaching for a bar of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream when you are upset? Well, finding comfort in food is common and is part of a practice called Emotional Eating.
People who emotionally eat are found to do so several times a week to suppress their negative feelings. They may later regret on doing so and this becomes a vicious cycle leading to multiple eating disorders and weight related stress
What causes someone to eat emotionally? Anything from work stress to financial woes, health issues and even relationship struggles can be the root cause of emotional eating. It’s an issue which affects both sexes, but is more common in women than in men.
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