Are Women Equally Liable for Adultery? – Examines SC

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The Supreme Court will examine the Constitutional Validity of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code where Section 497 provides provision for adultery.

What is adultery?

Adultery is an offence which punishes a man who has Consensual Sexual Relation with a woman who is not his spouse.

Section 497 of IPC punishes only the men who is in adulterous relationship and not married women who is equally participant in the act of adultery. Woman is not even prosecuted as an abettor for adultery.

Whereas it is not vice-versa.

Section 497 of the Indian Penal Codes states as under:

“Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.” Penalty for this offence is imprisonment which may be extended up-to 5 years or fine or both.

Adultery is considered an offence against married women whose husband involves in adultery whereas that women is completely absolve with whom the husband is involved in adultery subjected to the condition that act is committed with the consent of the married women.

Punishing only the men and let off the woman who is equally participated in the adultery leads gender discrimination.

A three Judges bench of the SC issued notices to the Central Government after admitting the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Filed by an Activist Joseph Shine challenging the validity of Sec. 497 of IPC.

The SC seems the current law on adultery is prima facie gender discriminatory. As when the same offence is committed by both men and women, but only one is prosecuted and another is absolves it leads to gender inequality.

The counsel for the petition argued that the current provision is prima facie discriminatory as it violates the Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.

A further question of gender equality is also raised over section 497 as it says if adultery is committed with the permission of the husband of the women then it ceases to be an offence.

In the light of the above states facts, following questions could be raised:

  • Should a man not be prosecuted if he has sexual relation with another person’s wife with the consent of husband?
  • Should women not be considered guilty of adultery who equally participated in the offence?
  • Is Section 497 of IPC really a violation of constitutional provisions of gender equality?

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