Indians love the First World, especially the West. We love them so much that we often knowingly or unknowingly downplay the culture and traditions of our country. Earlier, people were used to get married and then they used to think about having kids but now the people and generations have changed and they are bringing a trend of getting pregnant and then they get married.

In a recent picture posted by newlywed singer Neha Kakkar, where she poses as she is pregnant and then the controversy started whether she was pregnant before her marriage? Though later it came as a publicity gimmick for her latest album but she succeeded in her motto of getting in another publicity stunt created by her own on the verge of destroying her own country’s culture. It’s because of her picture, the rumor all over and started the conversation about whether it's right or wrong to get pregnant before marriage. This is not happening for the first time that some celebrity has announced something not good for the society. Bollywood is also known for rumors about its members being associated with polygamy or murder scandals or drug abuse or child trafficking or sex trafficking or shaking hands with the underworld. Although, what’s not a rumor is couples getting pregnant before marriage- right from Kamal Hassan and Sarika in the 1980s to Celina Jaitley and Peter Haag, Neena Gupta and Vivian Richards, Mahima Chaudhary and Bobby Mukherjee, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor, Konkana Sen Sharma and Ranvir Shorey, Anoushka Shankar and Joe Wright, Neha Dhupia and Angad Bedi, Natasha Stankovic and Hardik Pandya. The social responsibility these people carry is beyond imagination, especially because Indians love their big-screen “heroes”. Quite naturally, we replicate their style, fashion, on-screen attitude, off-screen attitude, etc. But many follow the West and normalize practices that our culture doesn’t recognize as constructive. Not to mention, though individual view on the importance of culture and traditions is very subjective and personal, Bollywood stars getting pregnant before marriage doesn’t seem to constructively make a positive change in society. Hence, now you know what I meant when I said we have started to follow the West for all the wrong reasons.

It has cost us generations of intimidated people fantasizing the West, for all the wrong reasons. As much as I am an advocator of personal liberty and personal choice, I also believe that one must not act at the cost of others or society as a whole. Being in the limelight is a double-edged sword. One way you have the potential to make a significant difference to the society (for better) and the other way you also get criticized for not using the potential constructively. Many Bollywood artists use this power to voice the oppressed/ underprivileged (as a stunt or not is a topic of another day) or to “break the stigma” which they do, for a better society.

Our country is known for spirituality, ethics, our diverse cultures and hospitality. Today’s liberal society is the by-product of western culture that we have been following and adopting too rigorously. Nothing is wrong in following the West, it always comes to a personal choice, after all. But, what is concerning is that we hold more pride in their culture than in ours. I say this without the context of nationalism or patriotism but plain conscience. As the years pass, we see more generations of people adopting Hollywood (because that’s our medium of knowing them) for everything that our society holds as unethical. Under the titles of “breaking stereotypes” or “smashing orthodoxy,” we sometimes end up shaming our own culture. And I hold only public figures responsible for this shift as they either underestimate the extent to which they can influence the society or they think they can only maintain a liberal stance if they follow the West, doesn’t matter for good or bad.

In our context, it means that getting pregnant before marriage is not a crime. But it is also not something constructive for the society, not something which is a step to the right direction as our nation is known for its culture, heritage and traditions. I feel indulging in something that not only sets a wrong example but also threatens the culture which upholds morality as the highest rank, is extremely condemnable. Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), 1955 confers the status of legitimacy on the children of void and annulled voidable marriages. Before the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976 children of void marriage were legitimate only if a decree of nullity was granted in respect of such marriage under section 11 of the Act. If no decree was obtained the children could not be legitimatized. After the amendment, under sub-section (1) of section 16 the children of void marriage are legitimate whether a decree of nullity is passed or not. They are legitimate even when the marriage between the parties is held to be void otherwise than on a petition under the Act. In respect of the children of voidable marriages sub-section (2) states that they are legitimate even on the passing of a decree of nullity as though the marriage was dissolved by a decree of divorce instead of being annulled.

Interestingly, celebrities don’t feel any challenges or hurdle in their life for adopting these cultures of getting pregnant before marriage but the normal person will have to face many challenges in their routine life. For example, their kids born without the wedlock will be called as “nazayaz aulad” by the people of their surroundings. Also, unmarried couple or a single mother/father faces problems in renting out any property for their stay. Even few schools demand to produce documents related to parents’ marriage. In a 2014 judgment by Supreme Court it was said that ‘lived like a husband and wife’ for a long period and had children, the judiciary would presume that the two were married. I was talking to a doctor friend who owns a hospital in Mumbai said that the abortions in the hospitals are on the rise and she witnesses this each day in her hospital. Dr Kavita Lalit Patil, General Practitioner, says that the abortions in unmarried women have increased in the recent past. “In my hospital, I can say that out of 10 cases, 4 are unmarried women who come for abortions. There are cases where the unmarried mother comes several times for abortion. Also, there are few women who wants to keep the child but due to social stigma and non-acceptance in society, they abort the child.” According to Medical Termination Act, if the pregnant female is above 18 years of age, the consent of father is not required for abortion.

Our cultures never force people to act in a certain way. We know how bad it is when Gen Z takes more pride in not knowing the Indian epics like Mahabharata and Ramayan. Those are never taught to our kids in schools or homes rigorously. But knowing them is rather a sign of orthodoxy or old fashion, except they do not know how vast and intricate scientific backing the Epics have. This behaviour should not get unnoticed but undone. To undo the destructive changes the celebrities promote, we need to groom our kids in a more diverse way, so that they can decide for themselves what’s good and what’s not instead of following the trend.  

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