Indian Court Rules Against Adultery, Considers it not a Crime

Indian’s top court has ruled that adultery is no longer a crime and declared the colonial-era law that punished the offense with jail time unconstitutional and discriminatory against women

The 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.

This law was challenged in the court by a petitioner who described it as arbitrary and discriminating against women as women could not file a complaint under the archaic law nor be held liable for adultery themselves, making it solely the realm of men.

“Thinking of adultery from a point of view of criminality is a retrograde step,” unanimously declared the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court.

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. She is subjugated to the will of her spouse.”

This is the second time this month India’s Supreme court is overturning Victorian-era laws bothering on sexual choices. Earlier this month, the court struck a ban on gay sex introduced by British rulers in 1861.

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.

“Equality is the governing principle of a system. Husband is not the master of the wife,” the verdict added.

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