Adultery to a common man would mean having illicit relationships with the opposite sex. In other words, having any sexual relationship with anyone other than one’s spouse (wife) would amount to adultery to a body politic. But what shocked and appalled me was that our Indian legal system greatly differs on this issue.
According to Indian Penal Code, section 497: Adultery is when a man has sexual intercourse with a married woman without her husband’s consent and such that it doesn’t amount to rape. And it not only ends here, the man in question is the only one to be punished and not the woman even though she is a clear abettor in this act. So basically if a man is married and has sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman or with a married woman with the ‘blessings’ of her husband and her wish, he not doing anything wrong. No wait..Haven’t we forgotten someone here? What about the consent of the wife of the man involving in this act? Does she not have a say in it? And if yes, what is her right? What can she do in a situation where the law turns a blind eye to her grief and brandishes the abominable act of her husband to be nothing that violates any laws?
In a country like ours where marriage is considered to be a sacred union, we never cease to boast about our family values, our culture and the stable marriages; it really bothers me to know that such a felony is considered to be absolutely just by our legal system!
Our law prohibits polygamy, but fails to provide for any system to confer to the child borne out of wed locks any rights. Has anyone really stopped and thought of what about the kids borne out of marriage and these unethical relationships? The kid is branded as a fool, with no rights vested with him to claim his childhood and a normal upbringing from his biological father. Why is this hypocrisy? A person can’t marry then why is he allowed to go and have sexual relationships legally?
Another loophole here is if ‘adultery by law’ is happening, it is only the male involved in this activity who is punishable. Why is this? Is the woman involved an equal culprit? We understand feminism, but isn’t it discrimination against men? why is it today we talk of equality, we have fundamental right bestowed upon us to ensure equality in the Articles 14-18 in the Constitution of India, our preamble states that we are equals and will work to ensure it. So, providing relief where women are victims makes sense but why is that we have assumed her to be always be a victim and not culprit? Are we not being rigid in thinking so?
I would like to ask had the law been the other way round and women were only to be punished on being involved in such relationships, would it be okay? Wouldn’t we be having activists and debates going on if it is unjust and unfair to let go of the men who get involved unscathed? We would have!
In our country it is assumed when the topic is ‘SEX’ women are the victims. I ask why? Why is that we tend to think that they don’t do it for their own guilty pleasure but do it under pressure, under some obligation and is always somehow being victimized in this scenario?
I do not question the intellect of the people who formed this law but I do question the intellect of those are following it. It was made years ago. It probably suited the situations but tell me ARE YOU READY TO LIVE IN AN ERA BYGONE?
About the Author
Ananya is pursuing an integrated law program from Indian Law Society Law College (ILS), Pune. She has previously interned at CLRA where she developed an immense interest in learning about and public policy research and its impact. Interning at the National Commission for Women introduced her to a whole new reality and made her realize the need for awareness among people about their rights and responsibilities.