Free Press Journal

Intimacy Undone: Ethics, demeanor and protocols of family law- Review

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The book is a vivid narration of social institutions of family, marriage and divorce get enacted in policy making and courts of law. Though the book primarily engages with Hindu law and descriptions of pre dominantly middle to upper-class North Indian context, It also mentions other laws to discuss the larger issues of gender and politics.

Through a historical reading of these issues as well as narration of legal experiences it brings out very relevant issues of gender conflict, conservative and liberal approaches, change and resistance to it. It also deflates the myths of “Indian culture” associated with the same that has patriarchal roots and have played a big role civil and public institutions. Yet, the book not only challenges patriarchal power, it’s focus is also to explain the challenges faced by lawyers and law makers as well as clients.

It captures the dynamics of matrimonial conflict and family laws in an insightful and interdisciplinary fashion that may interest students, researchers, lawyers, law enforcers, lawmakers, social workers, activists or anyone interested in understanding family laws in a nuanced way. Through narrations of prominent case studies, battles in court, behind the scene stories and parallels from international contexts; the book fulfills its promise of providing a comprehensive understanding of challenges of emotional issues enacted in arena of law.


The book begins with a chapter on Marriage and Divorce Construct. It contains an overview of the divorce law in India as well as its evolution in international context. The author has traced the debates of legal history of the very important Hindu Code Bill with scenes from Bollywood movie Mr and Mrs.55 to the present day difficulties of obtaining a divorce. Yet, this cannot be fully understood unless one grasps the nature of marriage and family that is rooted in ideas of chastity, culture and gender inequality. Referring to thinkers like Engels, Gerda Lerner who have given political explanations of patriarchy and explained how women get equated with property and wealth the chapter aims at decoding the ideology of sex,

Referring to thinkers like Engels, Gerda Lerner who have given political explanations of patriarchy and explained how women get equated with property and wealth the chapter aims at decoding the ideology of sex, biology, and gender.  Tracing gender inequality in India through folklore and mythology, roles associated with the character of Sita and Draupadi, texts of Kautilya and and Manu, the book describes the current challenges and issues concerning women lawyers, judges.

It also brings to light how personal values affect legal judgments. The third chapter examines the emotional, cultural as well as legal issues concerning moral and legal arguments in adultery law, restitution of conjugal rights and crimilysation of marital rape. It also analyses the extent to which sex is central to marriage and its implications.

Very boldly it makes claims against the conventional practices from the class perspective as well as presents a case against crimilysation of adultery. The forth chapter discusses the fault lines of divorce and explains issues of bigamy through case studies and analysis of judgements in law courts. The fifth and sixth chapter examines the issues of property laws, maintenance and alimony and argues for the women’s quest for right to equality. Delicate issues like women’s rights over her

Delicate issues like women’s rights over her streedhan, dowry, issues of triple talaq, polygamy, pre nuptial agreements and laws of interim maintenance have been widely debated both from legal, religious as well as cultural practices. Issues of mental health in divorce, insights into laws like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Hindu succession Amendment Act 2005, 498 A IPC and the Benami Transactions Prohibition Act 1998 are thought provoking.

While it exposes the patriarchal ideologies that govern these practices, it also very interestingly brings to light the complexities faced by lawyers and judges too in their effort to be as objective as possible. The seventh chapter deals with the issues of children, their right to be heard, child abuse and tension regarding their custody that has a deep impact on the child’s psychological health. Due to lack of sensitivity and adequate training in law schools, the author laments that usually, court cases are more geared towards problems of parents, their circumstances and their conduct, rather than the child! The chapter on privacy is an insightful analysis of liberty and privacy relevant to understanding an alive democracy.

It also extensively deals with misuse of gender specific laws by both men and women and suggests some remedial methods. The tenth chapter provides one of the most systematic accounts of the Uniform Civil Code and Article 44 of the constitution (the most debated issues). From its genesis, to its legal history, it highlights the various debates and implications of the laws.

The author highlights the distortion of the spirit of these laws with the intervention of religious politics and makes an argument against practices that can hamper the fulfilment of social justice and gender inequality. Epilogue and FAQs at the end of the book are a useful and interesting read. With changes in understanding and meanings of the institution of marriage, laws and its enforcement also undergoes various modifications. The book traces the same in a fascinating engagement with the

The book traces the same in a fascinating engagement with the constitution and the Indian legal system in its attempt towards gender equality. Addressing the psychological, the ethico- spiritual and socio political aspects of gender justice, the book is an important contribution to understanding inclusive democracy from gender perspective.

Intimacy Undone

Author: Malavika Rajkotia

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Pages: 418; Price: Rs 799