India Abolishes Sexist Adultery Law, Restoring Women’s Agency Over Their Bodies

Several weeks ago, India finally managed to end their ban on homosexual relations, which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and this week, the country finally struck down another ancient discriminatory law. This law served to punish any men that had extramarital intercourse and also treated women as property.

According to CNN, the Indian Supreme Court abolished the 158-year-old law unanimously, which was instituted by the British back in 1860. The law punished men with a prison sentence of up to 5 years if he engaged in any intercourse with a married woman if the woman didn't have her husband's consent. This law allowed the husbands to prosecute any men that slept with married women, however, it completely prohibited wives from doing the same thing. According to the Chief Justice Dipak Misra, they finally voted that the husband is not a master of the wife, and any legal law that states otherwise is completely wrong.

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There hasn't been any data published about how many men were actually prosecuted while this law was in power, but the lawyer that represented the petitioner that wanted to change the law, Kaleeswaram Rai said that there were plenty of similar cases. Plenty of men all over India often filed criminal complaints against either imagined or suspected men, that they thought were being cheated on by their wives. And although none of those charges could ever be proven to be true, they still ended up completely ruining the reputations of the then divorced or just estranged partners. Meanwhile, the law said that the woman in question is always considered to be completely innocent.

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So for a long time, men all over India felt that the law was unjust, and everyone believed that both parties should be equally liable for such an act. This terrible example of gender discrimination in a law that remained standing for so long was finally brought down. After a four day hearing, the five-judge bench voted unanimously. And the original petition was brought to the court by Joseph Shine, who claimed that the colonial-era law implied gender bias. Having it taken down is a big victory for the status of women in India, both within their marriages and within their families.

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