The largely religious country of India has declared that Adultery is no longer a crime in a ruling by a top court in the country on Thursday.
In its ruling, the Indian court declared the pre-colonial law which carried a jail time as unconstitutional and discriminatory against women.
The law which has been a part of the justice system of India for more than a century prescribed a five year jail time for any man who slept with a married woman without her husband’s permission; in the eyes of the law, the man is deemed to have committed adultery.
The law had been challenged in court by a petitioner who prayed the court to strike out the ancient law describing it as arbitrary and discriminatory against women.
According to the Supreme court of India;
“Thinking of adultery from a point of view of criminality is a retrograde step”
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 further that the now extinct law deprived women of dignity and individual choice; it also gave permission to men to use their wives as chattel, the court said.
Supreme Court Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said further;
“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 makes it the second time within the space of a few weeks that the Indian supreme court would strike out British colonial era laws from the constitutional space of India having overturned a ban on gay sex introduced by British rulers in 1861.
In overturning the Victorian era law, 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.”
While the debate on Adultery was on, government lawyers had argued that the act should remain a crime because it threatened the institution of marriage, and caused harm to children and families.
The Indian Supreme court said however that although extramarital affairs were a valid ground for divorce in marriages, it remains an exclusively private affair between adults which should not have the interference of the state