Being conspicuous by absence is a popular expression. It would have been everyone’s experience that when you attend a social gathering, and if you happen to get there without accompanying your spouse, the host more often asks about the absence of your partner, than greeting your presence by a warm hand shake or a welcome hug. It has not however, probably ever happened that a country’s Premier is making an official visit and the press and people, diplomats and dignitaries have been talking about the absence of visiting dignitary’s girl friend at the Republic Day celebrations at New Delhi than about the significance of his visit. The paparazzi would have it that Nicolas Sarkozi looked melancholic at the Taj Mahal, making an obvious inference to his emotions without his girl friend, Ms.Carla Bruni. “Le Sarko show” reveals that if Sarkozi decides to marry, Ms.Bruni will be his third wife; Ms.Bruni has herself been never married before and about the institution of marriage itself, she is reported to have said, “Monogamy bores me terribly.” The couple’s unmarried status has led to criticism from conservative parties during their trip to Egypt and protocol would dictate that as boyfriend and girlfriend they would be offered separate bedrooms when they visit Windsor Castle in March, 2008.
The institution of marriage did not arrive by any single fiat of any ruling establishment. There have been several theories for the purpose of marriage. The traditional view is that it is to ensure successful procreation and child rearing. (This theory takes a serious beating from American experience and hence a prescience of what is in store for us. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 1992, 30.1 percent of births were to unmarried women and in 2006 that number had risen to 38.5 percent. In contrast, in northern Ghana, for example, payment of bride-wealth signifies a woman's requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face substantial threats of physical abuse and reprisals). Another view recognizes that it must have been a slow progress to this stage, when promiscuity gave place to stability in interpersonal relationship between two persons that was the foundation of a family, with procreation as an incidental by-product. A third perspective holds that marriage is an instrument of societal domination and so is not desirable. A fourth is that relationships between consenting adults should not be regulated by the government. It is not uncommon for two or more viewpoints to coexist within a given society.
Marriage requires religious, social or governmental approbation and each has a method of legitimizing it. Almost all the traditional weddings are celebrated by religious- rites-route. The 1967 State amendment to Hindu Marriage Act was the most important piece of legislation, inspired by Periyar’s teachings that legitimized suyamaryadha form of marriage, when any act that expressed an intention of the spouses to take each other as matrimonial partner was sufficient to solemnize a marriage. The legal imprimatur is best secured by registration of the marriage. Sometimes all the three forms of marriage are performed. Religious ceremonies within family, suyamaryadha form for the consumption of rationalists and for show of progressive mindset and registration for practical purposes. In some countries, such as France, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Argentina, Japan and Russia, it is necessary to be married by the state’s prescribed ceremony separate from (usually before) any religious ceremony, with the former being the legally binding one. Civil marriages are all conducted before the eyes of the public, although Australia permits a wedding to be a wholly private affair, at any location, be it a ranch, yacht or in an idyllic beach setting in an unknown archipelago.
There are endless types of conjugal living. Arranged marriages, love marriages, mutah, live-in relationships, gay marriages, lesbian marriages, POSSLQ (pronounced pɒsəlkju, which is an acronym for "Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters," a term coined in the late 1970s by the United States Census Bureau as part of an effort to more accurately gauge the prevalence of cohabitation in American households) and living apart together (LAT). Another new variant is a person in ‘an intimate relationship’ called the Significant Other, also referred to as, sig ot, sigot, sigoth, SigO, or SO. India has recognized a live-in partner, who could be an offender or a victim under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. In all respects, it is the legitimacy of marriage that is a guarantee for several of the civil rights in India. Property rights, including alimony and inheritance, depend on legally valid relationships. Tax benefits for a ‘family’ will have immediate relevance only to legally approved union. A shared household belongs only to ‘married’ couple. Relationships in extended family through the spouse with suffix ‘in-law’ could be obtained only for legitimate kinship. Above all, unlike in Sarkozi’s case, you will be enquired with genuine concern only if you are or not accompanied by your legitimate spouse and not any other modern variants.