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India Legalizes Adultery

Ruling strikes down 158-year-old law
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2018 7:33 AM CDT
A gardener works in the lawns of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India.   (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)
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(Newser) – "It is time to say husband is not the master," Dipak Misra, the chief justice of India's top court, says in a ruling striking down the country's adultery law. "Legal sovereignty of one sex over another is wrong." The ruling jettisoning the 158-year-old colonial-era law means adultery is no longer a crime in India, the BBC reports. Long criticized as archaic and sexist, it made it illegal for a man to have sex with a married woman without the permission of her husband. Misra said that while adultery could certainly be an issue in civil cases like divorce, "it cannot be a criminal offense." The law had been challenged three previous times, most recently in 1988.

"I welcome this judgment by the supreme court," says Rekha Sharma, the head of India’s National Commission for Women. "It was an outdated law, which should have been removed long back." She notes that the law dated from the British colonial era—but the British got rid of their version of the law many years ago. Government lawyers had urged the court to keep the law, arguing that "making adultery legal will hurt marriage bonds." The Guardian reports that those who brought the case had only sought to make the law gender neutral, but the court decided to simply get rid of it. (Earlier this month, the court struck down a colonial-era law banning gay sex.)

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