Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

India court backs rights of unmarried couples

Kushboo's comments created a stir

The Supreme Court in India has endorsed the right of unmarried couples to live together in a case involving an actress accused of outraging public decency.

A three-judge panel in Delhi pointed out that even Hindu Gods Lord Krishna and Radha were co-habiting lovers.

Actress Kushboo was appealing to the court to quash more than 20 cases filed against her in 2005.

In a 2005 interview she said it was not wrong for women to have pre-marital sex as long as they took precautions.

She said that it was also "not fair of any educated youth to expect his wife to be a virgin".

The remarks stirred controversy in a conservative country where pre-marital sex is still a cultural taboo.

Some Tamil nationalist political groups accused the actress of making derogatory and obscene remarks against Tamil culture.

Several cases have been filed against her across Tamil Nadu in various courts under different sections of the Indian penal code.

If found guilty, she faces imprisonment or a fine.

Central tenet

"When two adult people want to live together, what is the offence?" the judges said. "Living together is not an offence. Living together is a right to life."

The judges said they were "not bothered" by Kushboo's personal views and reserved judgement on her petition.

Marriage remains a central tenet in India, with weddings celebrated in lavish style and many households made up of extended families.

The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi in India says that pre-marital sex will remain taboo in India - despite Wednesday's ruling - and live-in relationships are rare and frowned upon by society.

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