Lifestyle: Adultery Legalized in India | Jeremy Spell Blog

Adultery is no longer a crime, India’s
Supreme Court ruled Thursday, declaring a
colonial-era law that punished the offence
with jail time unconstitutional and
discriminatory against women.
The more than century-old law prescribed
that any man who slept with a married
woman without her husband’s permission
had committed adultery, a crime carrying a
five-year prison term in the conservative
country.
A petitioner had challenged the court to
strike down the law, describing it as
arbitrary and discriminatory against
women.
“Thinking of adultery from a point of view
of criminality is a retrograde step,”
unanimously declared the five-judge bench
of the Supreme Court.
Women could not file a complaint under the
archaic law nor be held liable for adultery
themselves, making it solely the realm of
men.
The court said it deprived women of dignity
and individual choice and “gives license to
the husband to use women as a chattel”.
“It disregards the sexual autonomy which
every woman possesses and denies agency
to a woman in a matrimonial tie,” said
Supreme Court Justice D. Y. Chandrachud.
“She is subjugated to the will of her
spouse.”
It was the second time this month the court
overturned Victorian-era laws governing
the sexual choices of India’s 1.25 billion
citizens.
Earlier this month, the court struck a ban on
gay sex introduced by British rulers in
1861.
The bench argued that Section 377 had
become “a weapon for harassment” of
homosexuals and “history owes an apology
to the members of this community and
their families”.
On adultery, government lawyers argued it
should remain a crime as it threatens the
institution of marriage, and caused harm to
children and families.
But in its ruling, the court said extramarital
affairs — while still a valid ground for
divorce — were a private matter between
adults.
In 1954, the court upheld adultery as a
crime arguing “it is commonly accepted
that it is the man who is the seducer, and
not the woman”.
But in their ruling on Thursday, the judges
said this narrative no longer applied, noting
also that Britain did away with its own laws
penalising adultery long ago.
“Man being the seducer and women being
the victim no longer exits. Equality is the
governing principle of a system. Husband is
not the master of the wife,” the verdict
added.

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