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Is Adultery Law The Fevicol Holding Marriage Together? The Government Thinks So

If it's only the fear of legal punishment through our adultery law that keeps you from cheating on your spouse, then are you really in a happy and healthy marriage? 

If it’s only the fear of legal punishment through our adultery law that keeps you from cheating on your spouse, then are you really in a happy and healthy marriage? 

Our Government seems to think that it doesn’t matter, and that punishing the man committing adultery is enough to keep the ‘sanctity of marriage’ intact!

Mind you, no punishment for the married woman though, because she definitely has no agency or a say in her relationships, right? She is just an object without any opinion of her own.

These are some of the thoughts that went through my mind while I read the recent news about the Centre not being in favour of making changes in the adultery law, i.e. Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that punishes adultery.

The Centre informed the same to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Earlier, an individual called Joseph Shine had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) demanding that the adultery law be made gender neutral in that both the man and the woman involved in adultery must be awarded with equal punishment.

The current Section 497 IPC punishes only the man involved in adultery with a married woman, with a prison sentence of up to 5 years or with a fine, or both. The woman on the other hand receives no punishment as per this law.

Oh no, the sanctity of the marriage bond!

According to the Centre, making changes in Section 497 IPC might adversely impact the sanctity of the marriage bond.

How funny is this that the Government thinks that punishing a man for committing adultery is enough to keep the ‘sacred bond of marriage’ intact.

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Fear of punishment shouldn’t be the reason for a man to stay faithful in a marriage! Secondly, if adultery is punishable, then shouldn’t both the man and the woman be punished?

Finally and most importantly, should there really be a punishment for two consenting adults being involved in a relationship? Their cheating on their spouses is of course, grounds for a separation or divorce in their marriages. However, are they really in very strong marriages if the only reason they aren’t cheating on their spouses is because it is punishable by law?

Let us stop treating marriage as a an enforceable bond. The marital bonds between two individuals should be based on ideals such as love, mutual respect, and loyalty. In case those are missing, why should two individuals be forced into staying with each other just because they had signed some papers in the past?

It is high time that our government starts treating its citizens as independent adults capable of making our own choices. The sanctity of marriage cannot be maintained by imposing a draconian law.

A successful marriage is the result of tremendous love and effort put forth by two individuals into their relationship; a government in no way should have a role to play in it. 

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About the Author

Kasturi Patra

Kasturi’s debut novel, forthcoming in early 2021, had won the novel pitch competition by Half Baked Beans Publishers. She won the Runner Up Position in the Orange Flower Awards 2021 for Short Fiction. Her read more...

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