Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Adultery and law

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The Indian mind is clouded about the subject of adultery. The formal definition relates to a man having sexual relationship with a married woman. The notion has been extended to illicit sex between an unmarried woman and a married man. The husband in the former case can complain. In the latter case, the wife of the married man is the aggrieved party. But according to Indian law, the wife has no right to complain. The Supreme Court has pointed out that the law is biased against a man who has illicit sex with a consenting married woman. But it is also biased in the sense that a married woman is seen as the property of her husband. So far women’s rights bodies have taken no action against such inequality.

The Supreme Court’s clarification highlights the need to amend the law. What about a married man or woman having a homosexual relationship? Is that adultery? The question is whether adultery should be legally a chargeable offence. Of course, under the present law it is a valid ground for divorce. But it is for the couple to decide. Out of court settlement should be preferred. The husband should not think of punishing the adulterer as in the Nanavati case. In Afghanistan, the Taliban condemn an adulterous woman to stoning to death. That is barbaric. The problem of marital relationship should be left to the husband and the wife for an answer. However, every effort should be made to arrive at a reconciliation. The future of the children is at stake.

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