R.I.P. the 150-year-old adultery law! Cheers to new progressive Supreme Court judgement!

The Supreme Court struck down the adultery law today and the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that “any system treating women with indignity or discrimination invites wrath of the constitution” and here are some insights and history that will make you wonder why this law came into existence in the first place and ‘what was the person thinking while creating it?’

A little history

Some excerpts from a historian and author Faramerz Dabhoiwala’s book, The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution mentioned that “Indeed, since the dawn of history every civilisation had prescribed severe laws against at least some kind of sexual immorality. The oldest surviving legal codes (c.2100-1700 BCE), drawn up by the kings of Babylon made adultery punishable by death and most other near Eastern and classical culture also treated it as a serious offence… The main concern of such laws was usually to uphold the honour and property rights of fathers, husbands and higher status groups….”

Thus, the earliest english law codes, which date from this time, evoke a society where women were bought and sold and lived constantly under the guardianship of men. Even in cases of consensual sex, its system of justice was mainly concerned with the compensation one man should pay to another for unlawful copulation with his female chattel.

While we cherish our ancient epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ and even consider the mythical characters as Gods even, it is absurd to see that we ‘pick and choose’ favourable history and forget those that are unfavourable or might stain the honour. Like Lord Ram is the hero when he questions and abandons poor Sita for living with the villian, we forget the story Shwetaketu’. Shewataketu, popular in Upanishads, finds out that his mother is a cheating on his dad and going out with the love of her life, he gets furious and questions his dad. The dad replies  “No son. This is how the world has always been. Human beings are polygamous.”

Why do we shhhh… this?

Thus, now that the SC has taken a progressive judgment and said that ‘Adultery is not a crime, but a ground for divorce, let’s hope it just gets better and not the other way.