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Is adultery a crime?
Independent India inherited many colonial-era laws which have lost their relevance in modern times. Some of these laws criminalise adultery, suicide and gay sex.

Even as the Supreme Court revisits an earlier judgment by its own judges which had restored the validity of Section 377, it is also examining the law on adultery – Section 497 - which penalises only the man in an adulterous relationship. Some argue that the woman should also be penalised, in this age of so-called equality between the sexes.

While adultery is odious as it involves deceit and betrayal, by no stretch of the imagination can it be called a criminal act. Sexual relationships between people fall within the personal domain, and as such the state has no remit in such matters. In this time and age, it is ludicrous to send people to prison because they were not faithful towards their partners. And even if the state wishes to penalise those who commit adultery, it would be more appropriate to fine the offenders. Anything more than that smacks of heavy-handedness.

Adultery happens because of many reasons. Some of these reasons may even be justifiable. For instance, a person in a loveless or abusive marriage may reach out to someone seeking love and affection. Not all extramarital affairs are purely sexual either.

While our state and Central governments show great alacrity in changing names of places which evoke our colonial past, it is strange that they show no interest in throwing out such outdated laws which have been bequeathed to us by Victorian England which was known for its prudery and puritanical moral codes.

This insistence on selectively clinging on to the past has its own agenda. For, even today, woman is seen as man's property. A man who commits adultery is perceived as someone who appropriates what belongs to another man. It is time we rid ourselves of this patriarchal mindset and accept that women are not possessions but human beings with minds of their own.

Those who cry themselves hoarse about tradition, culture and other sacred cows are also the ones who think nothing of lynching people for no reason. Since when did it become our tradition to lynch innocent people or rape toddlers? The need of the hour is a stringent law to deal with lynch mobs who seem to be proliferating alarmingly. These are the people who need to be thrown into prison because they are the real criminals. But our leaders think it perfectly alright to hobnob with such criminals even as they demand that homosexuals and adulterers should be jailed. The sheer hypocrisy of such demands is nauseating.

Yes, adultery is something that most of us cannot approve of. But neither do we approve of a law that makes it a crime against the state. The world has changed and we need new laws that are more in tune with the times. The same goes for the laws on gay sex and suicide.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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