India Overturns Sexist Colonial-Era Adultery Law

A wedding procession takes place a few hundred meters away from the Dadar Crematorium on November 30, 2008 in Mumbai (Bombay), India.
Image: Getty

Weeks after ending a ban on gay sex, India has struck down another discriminatory colonial-era law that punished men for having extramarital sex and treated women as their property.

CNN reports that, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has abolished a 158-year-old law that sentenced a man for up to five years in prison if he engaged in sexual activity with a married woman who didn’t have her husband’s consent. The law enabled a husband to prosecute a man for sleeping with his wife but prohibited a wife from doing the same.


Per CNN:

The Supreme Court struck down the law Thursday, ruling it retrograde and discriminatory towards women.

“It’s time to say that [a] husband is not the master of [his] wife,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra, read out from the judgment. “Legal sovereignty of one sex over the other sex is wrong.”

While there is no data on how many men were prosecuted under the law, Kaleeswaram Rai, the lawyer representing the petitioner, told the BBC, “Men would often file criminal complaints against suspected or imagined men who they would allege were having affairs with their wives. These charges could never be proved, but ended up smearing the reputations of their estranged or divorced partners.”

Jayna Kothari, executive director of the Center for Law and Policy Research, told CNN that the ruling is a “a big victory for women’s status and position within marriage and within families.”

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Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

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