Here’s why the archaic Adultery law in India is riddled with issues

The fact that the law prohibits the affected wife from filing a complaint against her husband for adultery makes it highly unjust and patriarchal.

By   |  Published: 14th Jul 2018  5:14 pmUpdated: 14th Jul 2018  5:34 pm
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Hyderabad: Activist Joseph Shine in his 2017 plea urged the Supreme Court to strike down the archaic adultery law in India as it is unfair to both men and women. But the Centre on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss his plea in order to save the sanctity of marriage in India. In its argument, the Centre upheld that the dismissal of the law would prove a threat to the institution of marriage.

The adultery law, in its present form only punishes a man for having extra marital affair and not the woman. A man can only be punished for adultery if he has sexual relations with a married woman without her husband’s consent. He however cannot be prosecuted for having an affair with an unmarried woman or be held accountable if the woman in question has her husband’s permission.

But this is not where the problem lies. The fact that the law prohibits the affected wife from filing a complaint against her husband for adultery makes it highly unjust and patriarchal.

In fact, the law states that no person, other than the husband of the woman having an affair can file a case of adultery. This exclusion, according to Shine’s plea reduces a woman’s status to that of her husband’s property or, as claimed by Hyderabad based advocate Vasudha Nagraj, ‘sexual property’.

“Men come to me all the time accusing their wives of adultery, most of the time, it’s purely out of jealousy over their wives’ male friends. They do not have a solid case or proof. This is a sheer display of sexual dominance and patriarchy,” she told Telangana Today.

“We should completely do away with this law as it has made life hell for women. Men use this law to take claim on property and children and women cannot do anything. And how will they when the law gives them no power?” she added.

Men’s right activist Shonee Kapoor, however, is of the opinion that if the law has to exist, then it should be gender neutral.

“The law is extremely unfair to men. I’ve come across cases where despite having a consensual sexual relationship, only the man has been punished. Marriage is a civil and not a criminal issue. We should either get done away with this archaic law or make it gender neutral,” he said.

As far as gender neutrality is concerned, advocate Trivikrama Rao Pochamapally agrees that there should be punitive action for both or none.

But when it comes to preserving the sanctity of marriage, he is in conflict with Centre’s argument.

“Any consensual sex between two consenting adults is a private act and should not be intervened by the government. Also the law was enacted to maintain the sanctity of institution of marriage. But it needs to be understood sanctity of this sacred institution cannot be enforced. Above all if a spouse commits adultery then prosecution of the person won’t prevent the breakdown of marriage,” he said.