India Supreme Court strikes down colonial-era adultery law
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India Supreme Court strikes down colonial-era adultery law

The Supreme Court of India on Thursday struck down [judgment, PDF] Section 497 [PDF] of the Indian Penal Code, ending the 158-year-old colonial statute that made adultery illegal.

The section allowed for the wife of an adulterer to be charged as an abettor and receive the same punishment, and did not allow for a wife to seek charges of adultery against her husband. It was considered sexist by many who believed it contradicted a clause in Article 15 of the constitution of India [text, PDF], which reads “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”

“A husband is not the master of his wife,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra in his judgment. “The provision is anti-human and implies a woman can be subjugated by her husband at his will. … [W]e are glad to make obsolete this law.”

In January India’s supreme court gave the opinion [text, PDF] that the law was archaic and needed to be repealed, but the process was delayed by many appeals for almost 10 months.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court decriminalized gay sex [JURIST report] as part of what has become a rollback of obsolete sections of the 158-year-old Penal Code, which has remained largely unamended since its drafting in 1860.