So this 22 year old young woman has started living with her sister’s husband (25), a father of two. The couple asked the court to protect them, because even though the wife is fine with their ‘friendship-agreement‘, the rest of the family isn’t. The Jeeja-Saali feel their lives are threatened.
Justice Hema Kohli pulled up the woman and the 25-year-old married man, saying, “This is not America. You have no right under the Hindu Marriage Act to marry twice. Anyway, the boy has his wife and she is alive and with two kids to look after…”
This kind of relationship is not new in India. I have blogged about a 15 year old who was reported ‘kidnapped’. She was found in another part of the city with her sister’s husband, 25.
The sister’s husband – the son in law, in Indian culture, is a very important family member. This man visited their house often and was treated with deference. He could beat his wife and his sister in law and control their lives because each felt the only way to save their ‘honor’ was to stay married or to get married to this man. The young sister in law felt she was unlikely to find a husband (even if this man ‘allowed‘ it) because she was ‘tainted‘. And Indian girls are raised to believe that Getting Married and Staying Married was their goal in life. So could the girl be blamed for thinking her happiness depended on this abusive, irresponsible, dishonest and married-man? If he didn’t marry her, she would be told, ‘Ab tu kaheen ki naheen rahi‘ (you are doomed now).
We have Bollywood songs (and I am sure folk songs also) describing the relationship between Jeeja-Sali. Often the son in law of the house is the only male, the young sisters in law have ever interacted with and they have grown up hearing jokes like ‘saali to aadhi gharwali‘ (a sister in law is half a wife). Also a ‘Happily Married Daughter’ is a status symbol in India, so even if the sister in law is very young (say 13 or 14) and even if she seems confused (flattered, even attracted, ashamed and guilty) with such attentions in an otherwise segregated society, the elders tend to ignore the child-abuse (that is what it is).
In ‘My Feudal Lord’ a Pakistani wife, Tehmina Durrani describes the relationship between her sister, a 13 year old Aadila and her middle aged, violent and abusive husband. I blogged about another young girl, related to my maid, in Delhi. [Linked above] Such cases are not uncommon this side.
I have not heard of such cases happening in America. Are married American men permitted to marry twice? Do American wives get bullied into saying they are fine with their husbands ‘friendship-agreements’ with their sisters? Do young American girls feel they must marry the first man they ever find attractive, even if he is abusive and married?
I think the definition of a Live-in Relationship needs to made clearer to such couples. It definitely is not another name for polygamy. [Linked above]