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The Adultery Law Is Finally Gone – Here’s Why It Was So Sexist

The 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court has finally given mental and physical freedom to women.

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Video Editor: Vishal Kumar

Even in the 21st century, we see deep-rooted patriarchy in our society. But seeing this situation in our judicial system is a matter of both surprise and shame. Many laws have been made to prevent crimes against women and their exploitation. But the Supreme Court has struck down the 158-year-old adultery law as unconstitutional. The apex court said on 27 September that adultery is not a criminal offence.

What Was the Law?

The law said that whether sexual relations were established by a man or woman, the right to file a case was only with the man. The woman, even if she was a victim, had no legal recourse.

According to Section 497 of the IPC, if a married woman had sexual relations with any man other than her husband, then the husband of the woman could register a case against the other man.
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The Big Takeaways from the SC’s Decision

  • Adultery or having relations outside marriage, which can be sexual in nature, is not a crime in the eyes of law.
  • The Supreme Court has clearly said that the husband is ‘not the master’ of the wife. This means women cannot be regarded as a 'property' two men can fight over in court.
  • Adultery can be grounds for divorce, but not a criminal offence. It is not a crime unless it attracts the scope of abetment to suicide.

If we consider these points in the light of women’s issues, then the Supreme Court has given rights to married women that they were ostracised from.

Before the new judgment, women were treated the in the following mannerL

  • If a woman’s husband had no objections, he could coerce her to have sexual relations outside marriage. The woman had no right to object. The matter of consent was another thing altogether. A woman’s consent did not matter at all.
  • The right to file a complaint lay only with the husband whose wife was engaged in extra-marital relations. A wife whose husband was involved in extra-marital relationships had no rights to complain. It means the law was differentiating between men and women.
  • There was nothing called personal choice. A person’s sexual relations, whether a man or a woman, is a matter of personal choice. Is it right to interfere in consensual relations between two adults? Shouldn’t someone’s personal choice be respected?
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This law also strengthened the mindset which believed that women could only be victims and only her husband could get her justice.

The adultery law was a patriarchal, Victorian-era law that was not needed. And yes, we were late in scrapping this law.

The five judge bench constituted by the Supreme Court has finally given mental and physical freedom to women. The major thing said by Justice DY Chandrachud in this judgement was

Going a step forward in favour of women’s rights Justice Chandrachud said-A woman does not surrender her sexual rights before her husband after marriage.

She can exercise her choice at all times.

Only time will tell how long the society takes to accept the change.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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