The latest verdict on Article 497, which dealt with adultery on the part of women as an offence, has been struck down unanimously on September 27, by a panel of five judges of the Supreme Court.
Until now, it was considered a crime for a man to establish a sexual relationship with someone else’s wife, and if a complaint was filed by the husband, the culprit was liable for prison time, fine, or both. However, the woman couldn’t be charged as an abettor. The judges gave a verdict against the law stating that it represents the man as the ‘master of his woman’. But, it can still be used as a ground for divorce from both sides.
This law was used as a regulator for women – restricting them from having a sexual relationship with a man other than her husband. The law, since its introduction, was peculiar to women as there was no clause upon infidelity on the husband’s part.
The philosophy behind the introduction of Article 497 was to ensure marital sanctity. For a country like India where marriage is an institution and not just a union of two people, this law was established to safeguard the institution of marriage by a compelling commitment from the women.
A law which objectifies women as man’s property is not only sexist but also unconstitutional. This law stood in violation of Article 14 and 15 of India Constitution, by denying women the right to equality in their choice of sexual partners. It also needs to be remembered that, ‘Faithfulness can’t be imposed; It has to be earned’.
India, as a country, needed this carte blanche for quite some time now. A woman’s liberty of choosing her sexual partner has never been so much of a moral issue than a chauvinism issue. Despite endless efforts taken in order to promote feminism, most men still view women as their personal properties.
The notion of women requiring a sexual partner who isn’t her husband is considered a blemish on a man’s masculinity. There have been several ‘crimes of passion’, as we call them, where men kill their wife’s lover or sometimes even their wives. That kind of violence is barely observed when things are reciprocated. Somehow, these incidences always leave the women as victims.
Sexual intimacy has always been a tooth-grinding topic for Indians. India Today’s Sex Survey, even though created quite a scandal, it did unravel various aspects of sexuality amongst Indians. Choosing a partner, whether that’s for immediate sexual pleasure, marriage or an affair, should be solely based on a person’s liberty.
We need to establish a society where women are awarded as much liberty as men, and that liberty doesn’t become the seeding germ of crime. Decriminalization of Article 497, is a reflection of a more liberal and equal India, where women are considered just as equal, not only on paper – but in life too.