‘No Dating, Only Marriage!’ Govt Tells Matrimonial Websites
Remember the annoying uncle who insisted that ‘Beta, no dating for you! We will find a good groom, and then you can happily get married!’ whenever you brought your friends over?
Well, if you’re living in India in 2016, that uncle is the Government of India. More specifically, the Ministry of IT and Telecom.
IT and Telecom Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad has approved an advisory on matrimonial websites, which says that the websites have to confirm the ‘user’s intent to enter into a matrimonial alliance.’
Apart from ensuring that matrimonial sites don’t masquerade as dating websites (because of course, Indians don’t date), the advisory also requires users to upload true copies of supporting documents such as proof of identity and address for the purpose of user verification. And if you thought the Orwellian nightmare ends there, there’s more. The new rule also says that matrimonial websites should store IP addresses of the profile creator for one year from the date of activation.
The advisory aims to check misuse of matrimonial websites and prevent fraud on these sites, which is why it also says that these websites need to caution users against possible fraudsters.
Of Privacy, Third Wheels and Unwanted Baraatis
Fraud on matrimonial websites is an important issue, and one that definitely needs to be addressed. And yes, matrimonial websites are an intermediary under Section 2 of the IT Act, which implies that the IT and Telecom ministry is within its mandate to issue an advisory regulating the way these sites work.
But, what it doesn’t control is the lives of the people who are using these matrimonial websites. Whether to find love, matrimony or companionship. That is not regulation. That’s a blatant invasion of privacy. And by asking matrimonial websites to store IP addresses of its users for a year, the government is playing Big Brother. An unwanted baraati, that one doesn’t want at a wedding but is forced to invite.
Dating in India is very different from dating in the West, despite what those Tinder India ads might want you to believe. And, even though I don’t have the stats to prove it, most of the dating that takes place in India envisions marriage as its end goal. But to forbid matrimonial sites from ‘disguising’ themselves as dating websites, the government is coming off as prudish, vastly out of touch with times and curiously enough, anti-dating.
Dating sites (and apps) already exist in India and are very popular, then why this strict injunction that users on matrimonial websites must declare their ‘intent’? And why should the intention should be only marriage? Last time I checked, we weren’t living in the Victorian times - which was also the last time anyone declared their ‘intent’ to love, marry or anything else.
Advisories are not legally binding. And one really hopes that the government doesn’t make it mandatory for matrimonial websites to follow it. Because if there is one thing that millions of young, dating Indians can tell the IT and Telecom Ministry, it is this.
Being a third wheel is just no fun.
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