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The Voice of India’s Sexual Revolution?

India’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that unmarried couples have the right to live together after hearing a case involving a Tamil actress accused of corrupting young minds by promoting premarital sex.

The judges pointed out that even the Hindu gods, Lord Krishna and Radha, were co-habiting lovers rather than man and wife. “When two adult people want to live together, what is the offence?” they said. “Living together is not an offence. Living together is a right to life.”

The ruling marks a legal milestone in India’s sexual revolution as younger members of the urban professional classes slowly but steadily break down traditional taboos.

It is unlikely, however, to change habits among most Indians, who rarely indulge in premarital sex, let alone cohabit with lovers, and usually have their spouses chosen by their parents.

The actress, who goes by the single name of Khushboo, had appealed to the court to quash more than 20 cases filed against her in 2005 after she made allegedly immoral comments in magazine interviews. She told one publication that “no educated man would expect his [bride] to be a virgin”. The comments led to outrage in parts of southern India, where she is a star of Tamil-language movies.

The judges, however, challenged lawyers acting for the complainants to produce evidence of any girl running away with a lover in response to Khushboo’s comments. “Please tell us what is the offence and under which section should she be charged? Tell me how many people have been affected.