Adultery – An Unpopular Viewpoint

The adultery law in India defines Adultery or an extramarital affair as a criminal offence. Adultery is defined as a married man engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with another married woman. She could be any woman who is not his wife without the knowledge of his wife.

What are your opinions?

Let’s give this unpopular viewpoint a direction and see what the nation wants. Recently extramarital affairs law has been decriminalized by the supreme court stating that, “Husband is not the master of the wife”. But was this really what this country needed?

Who challenged the Law?

An Indian Businessman who lives in Italy, named Joseph Shine, petitioned the Supreme Court to eradicate the extramarital affair law. His argument was based on the discrimination posed by law against men by only staging them liable for extra-marital relationships or extramarital affairs while treating women like objects. The adultery law in IPC mentions that a man committing adultery “should be penalized with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to either five years, or with fine, or both.”

In cases of extramarital affairs, the wife shall not be punishable as a partner in the act. Similarly, an unmarried woman shall not be prosecuted for adultery. According to the adultery law in India, the felony of an extramarital affair committed by a man against another man who is married. To understand better, let’s have a detailed view of the reasons behind the law.

Why is extramarital affair law Decriminalized?

Primarily, the reason behind decriminalizing the adultery law in IPC was that it invested rights only in the hands of the husband. Someone whose wife shared a consensual sexual relationship with another married man. Although the wife of such married man has no right to complain. Would we term this inequality? Or mere patriarchal law!

Do you think it had to end or there was any second option? Decriminalizing the adultery laws in India was the only option? What rights does a partner have now when their spouse undergoes adultery? This article is not for expressing the grievous folly that the judgement has done but for inviting thoughts on the issue. An opinion that might be unpopular among a lot of people, but instead of decriminalizing the whole section, there could have been a better solution. Maybe, giving equal rights to the married woman to complain against her partner who commits adultery, whether with a married or unmarried woman, would have been one of the solutions.

What could be the approach?

Even that solution might have a number of loopholes, but adultery is not just a crime in the books of Indian penal code. It is a crime of emotions, a crime against the trust, it’s a crime against love, loyalty. According to me, it should not remain completely unpunished.

The petitioners wanted to throw light to the following issues related to Section 497:

  • The petitioners look forward to making Section 497 a gender-neutral law. The law suggests punishment to man only. And no recommendations are there for a woman.
  • According to Section 497 the adultery law in IPC, a woman cannot complain against her husband who has committed adultery with another woman. The law has no provision for such acts but shouldn’t there be any consideration for her feelings, emotions, faith and trust?

Why it is called the Anti-woman law?

To add to it, the adultery law in IPC treats a woman as an object. Setting man free to involve in a sexual relationship without the knowledge or consent of his wife. As per Section 497, the act not considered a crime if the husband of the woman has no issues with the incident. Hence it has been called an anti-women law. This decision against adultery laws are considered socially progressive, which one might not deny, but punishment to such dishonesty should be inevitable under the books of law. Provide rights to both gender equality for such crimes. “A couple may part their ways if either cheat. Attaching criminality to disloyalty in marriage is going too far,” the Chief Justice said. There is no data to support claims that elimination of adultery as misconduct would result in “disorder in sexual morality” or an increase of divorce.

An expert view!

Chief Justice wrote: “How married couple deal with adultery is clearly an issue of their privacy at its peak. Marriage does not mean surrendering autonomy of one to the other. Ability to make bodily choices is important to human freedom. In personal and private life everyone should be able to make choices. Society imposes unbearable virtues on a woman. Raises the bar of expectations from her. Limits her to certain criteria. Portrays her to be pure. But society has no discomfort to rapes, honour killings, sex-determination and infanticide, Justice Chandrachud rebuked.

Concluding my post, this is just an opinion, to raise questions, to know why decriminalizing was the only solution. Adultery is a social issue and it should not go unpunished. It is not just about sexual choices but also about emotional needs.