Adultery law: Activists fear SC relook will do harm

HYDERABAD: At a time when women continue to remain vulnerable, inspite of large strides of progress made among many, a relook into the archaic act of adultery to bring in women too as perpetrators is unnecessary, feel women’s rights activists in city. Based on a PIL filed by an individual from Kerala, the Supreme Court on Friday decided to re-examine section 497 of the IPC. The 150-yearold provision for adultery treats women as victims and only the men are considered to be adulterous with a jail term upto five years. While this may seem as a progressive move, it is likely do more harm than good, say activists.

“The law states that in the view of protecting the vulnerable, it only has punishment for men. Recently, it was also pointed out that the those filing complaints under section 498-A are also misusing them and it needs to be re-examined. The ones who get affected by these are those coming from the backward classes,” G Jhansi, from Dalit Sthree Shakti, an NGO working for the care and protection of Dalit women. Those who are genuinely affected also have to go through a lot more scrutiny, she said and brought up the case of a Dalit woman who was raped. “She has been waiting for justice for almost a year now, with no financial or emotional support.

On one side, police asks women like her to compromise and move on and on the other side, they are seeking punishment for women which is not very positive,” she pointed out. These issues need to be addressed first, she added. Gogu Shyamala, Dalit writer and activist said that while it seems like a bold step towards an equal society, this will shift focus away from more pressing issues. “In one way, this is a classist approach to the law. Sex work, for example, takes place across the society. However, only one section of the society that is always targeted.

Similarly, any punishment in case of adultery for women will also be targetting the vulnerable. It is not so progressive after all,” she said. However, this is one step towards creating more meaningful and practical laws as per the changing times, opined Mujeeb Kumar, a lawyer working on women’s issues. “The procedures and laws are archaic and it is important that we change them with the current times. All persons are equally liable and accountable in case of violation of law,” he said. In this day and age, there is no reason why one individual should be given immunity on the basis of gender, he added.


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