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The Indian Government Is Cracking Down On Casual Hookups

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In much of the world, dating services like OkCupid and Tinder are openly used for hookups. It’s a reputation some have tried to shake, but many tolerate and others have even embraced. It’s 2017 - that’s just how people date.

Unless, that is, you’re dating under the watchful eye of the Indian government.

Authorities in India plan to enact regulations that prevent singles who aren’t interested in marriage from using matrimonial websites. The new rules will require websites to keep IP address records, and require users to upload documents proving their identity. A government official told Bloomberg that the regulations are designed to ensure the websites aren’t being “misused.”

“We have approved the standards to check the cheating on such websites,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s minister for communications and information technology. “Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi was actively pursuing the matter. Since it was related to IT Act, our ministry approved this today.”

On Twitter, Prasad called the changes a “great step towards making matrimonial sites safer” and tagged his tweets with the hashtag #GoodGovernance.

This is not the Indian government’s first attempt to regulate matrimony websites. Last November, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) organized a panel to work on a regulatory mechanism to thwart “fraudsters” on matrimonial websites. The panel included officials from the WCD, home ministry, department of IT, and representatives from major matrimonial websites like Shaadi.com and Jeevansaathi.com.

“We want to make it clear that these portals are not dating websites,” an unnamed WCD official told The Indian Express. “The ministry has been receiving complaints regarding various kinds of frauds on such sites, from exploitation of women to people conning victims through fake profiles of prospective grooms.”

These crackdowns come as India finds itself suspended between tradition and modernity. Matrimonial websites have been popular in India for years, providing a new way of finding love in a country with a long history of arranged marriages. India now has more than 1500 such websites and experts estimate that the industry will reach $223 in revenue by 2017.

Many Indians are now pairing off via “semi-arranged” marriages in which technology plays matchmaker. Parents may still select suitable candidates, but they do it by scouring marriage websites and their children have veto power.

“The shift away from fully arranged marriages is being driven in good part by simple market dynamics among Indians who have long seen marriage as a guarantor of social status and economic security,” reports The New York Times.

Human rights activists see the evolution as “a significant change in the status of women worldwide” and hope it heralds a time when “even poor, rural families begin to allow marriages based on choice.”

Now that prospective brides and grooms are taking a role in their courtships, India’s marriage websites must adapt. “We have seen marked shifts in people using compatibility factors for their searches instead of only the more restrictive parameters of the past,” said Gourav Rakshit, chief of operations at Shaadi.com, to the Times.

Whether or not the new regulations against casual connections are the right adaptation remains to be seen. For online dating services which cater to Indian singles, see our Indian Dating category.