03 August, 2021

What The Law Says

Nothing much, as it disregards complexities

What The Law Says
"Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man... such sexual intercourse not amounting to rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or both..."
—Section 497, the Indian Penal Code

The Indian law on adultery, formulated circa 1860, sounds antediluvian in the 21st century. It's mostly about men settling scores with those who dared sleep with their wives. Women can't litigate against their errant husbands or their husbands' lovers, under the law. And, in turn, women can't be sued for being adulterous.

"Section 497 is based on Old Testament values," says Mumbai-based feminist lawyer Flavia Agnes. "It doesn't protect the rights of women, only protects the proprietorial rights of men over their wives' bodies." Considering men and women can both cite their spouses' infidelity as reason for seeking divorce, there is no legal rationale, feel many like Agnes, for a criminal law on...

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