Live-in relationships may be the preferred choice of those unwilling to tie the knot in a hurry, but for Ranchi’s women’s police station personnel, it is a tangle that they have to unravel every time relations sour between the couple in question.
Take the case of 18-year-old Sunita Kumari and 23-year-old Rakesh Singh of Mandar block. The couple lived together for six months before the problems started — Rakesh refused to take the relationship further and marry Sunita and instead wanted to settle down with someone his parents chose for him.
Feeling used, a distraught Sunita two weeks ago turned to the women’s police station, which took up her case.
What followed was a series of counselling sessions involving the couple and their respective parents. Luckily for the police personnel, the story had a happy ending. “Rakesh’s parents were convinced to accept Sunita as their daughter-in-law and the relationship survived,” said police station in-charge Sheila Toppo.
But the police are far from happy as a worrying trend seems to be emerging. According to Toppo, there has been a quantum leap in the number of cases involving live-in relationships in the last one year. The police station is registering 20 to 25 cases a month now, compared to four or five a year ago.
| A hope: Ranchi women’s police station
What is more, officers feel this is only the tip of the iceberg as many cases go unreported.
“The number of unmarried couples living together has increased drastically and most of the disputes are being reported from the rural pockets of Ranchi district,” said Toppo, adding that while a number of incidents were reported from Mandar and Ratu blocks, barely two or three cases were from urban pockets.
In most cases, the officers try to solve the problem by reuniting the couple through counselling. However, sometimes, they have been forced to lodge FIRs and charge the boy with rape when talks have failed to achieve results, in this case social acceptance or marriage.
Most of the girls who have come forward with complaints are between 16 and 18 years old, while the boys have been between 23 and 30.
The reasons why the maximum number of cases have been reported from rural pockets are many — illiteracy, poverty and ignorance. “These girls are from poor families, looking for emotional support and hoping for a better life. Instead they fall into this trap where they are used and abandoned. In many cases, the girls get pregnant and are abandoned by their own families as well,” Toppo said.
According to Toppo, most of the girls are led to believe that the boys in question would marry them once they got themselves a job that paid enough to start a family, only to find the boys settling for their parents’ choice of a bride. The police then become the only route to justice.
“We try to reunite the couple. We tell the boys that society will not accept a girl who has already been in a live-in relationship, hence he should marry her and give her the respect she deserves, and many agree,” Toppo said, unwittingly revealing how the counselling does little to break social taboos.
A Supreme Court order puts live-in relationships on par with a legal marriage and even children born as result have equal share to property.