The Rajasthan Human Rights Commission on Wednesday asked the central and state governments to prohibit women from opting for live-in relationships and alleged that it was against human rights. The commission said that the women in these relationships needed protection through a law as they could be treated “as a concubine”, the Hindustan Times reported.

“Keeping a woman as a concubine is against her dignity because this word tantamount to character assassination,” the order by a bench comprised of Justices Prakash Tatia and Mahesh Chand Sharma said. “For a woman, life as a concubine is not right to life and such a woman cannot protect her fundamental rights.”

The commission also said that it was the government’s responsibility to protect women from the “harms of live-in relationship” with the help of awareness campaigns. It referred to several Supreme Court orders on relationships akin to marriage and argued that the authorities should introduce a separate law for cohabiting.

“The law should specify eligibility of partners; how such relationships will be known to people at-large; procedure of registration; and how these relationships can be ended after a mandatory counselling,” the panel stated. Citing a Supreme Court order, the commission said that the couple in a live-in relationship would have to be of legal age to marry or must qualify to enter into a legal marriage, and should choose to live together voluntarily.

The commission’s order was sent to the chief secretary and additional chief secretary (home) for required action.

Rights activist Kavita Srivastav described the commission’s statement as “an extremely retrogade judgement” that can be challenged in the Rajasthan High Court, NDTV reported. She further said that the commission was “asking the government to make a law against live-in relationships and to challenge the ‘in the nature of marriage’ clause of the Domestic Violence Act.”

Former Chairperson of Women’s Rights Commission Lad Kumari Jain said that raising awareness against such relationships was incorrect as it was a “personal choice of partners”. Jain said that the relationships could not be criminalised as the Supreme Court had granted women in live-in relationships rights under the Domestic Violence Act, according to the Hindustan Times.

The Supreme Court, in an order in May last year, had said that adult couples have the right to live together even though they may not be married. It had also said that live-in relationships had been recognised under provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. In another judgement, the top court had called for a law to protect the children born out of such relationships.

Justice Sharma had grabbed headlines in June 2017 with his remarks on peacocks not having sex. “The peacock is a lifelong brahmachari or celibate”, he had said. “It never has sex with the peahen. The peahen gets pregnant after swallowing the tears of the peacock.” He was a Rajasthan High Court judge at the time.

Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.