In the latest string of progressive rulings, the Supreme Court of India has just struck down a colonial-era law that made adultery punishable for up to five years in prison.
The 158-year-old piece of legislation stated that a man had legal grounds to sue his wife’s lover without her consent. However, men were free to sleep with a married woman so long he had her husband’s consent.
In contrast, if a woman’s husband was unfaithful, she would not have been granted the same legal right.
Violations were punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine, or both.
The law, Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, was overturned by the court based on its “unconstitutional” gender bias, saying that a “husband is not the master of a woman.”
The verdict from Chief Justice Dipak Misra and the 5-panel bench emphasized that adultery will still be grounds for divorce, but not jail time.
“The adultery law is arbitrary, and it offends the dignity of a woman,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra, according to NPR. The rest of the panel added that the “archaic law long outlived its purpose and does not square with constitutional morality.”
“Excellent decision to decriminalize adultery,” female Congressional member Sushmita Dev wrote on Twitter. “Also, a law that does not give women the right to sue her adulterer husband and can’t be herself sued if she is in adultery is unequal treatment and militates against her status as an individual separate entity.”
The ruling comes just weeks after the court overturned a Victorian-era law that made homosexuality punishable by life in prison.
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