Women’s rights were residual in the past because of gender bias, but now courts have realised that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights too! In the words of late legend V.R. Krishna Iyer, “When half of the humanity consists of women and there is no real enforcement of laws for equality — it is an inherent prejudice and mockery of the Constitution.”
Women of this era have fought for their rights, and consequently an unprecedented revolution is created in law and life to realise gender equality. They no longer stand denunciation, oppression or harassment! Accordingly, to call women the weaker sex is libel; it is man's injustice to women.
Adultery is universally disapproved, nevertheless 78 per cent of married people were found to be infidele in three-fourth of the population in a global survey across 40 countries. While India decriminalised adultery, it continues to be a criminal offence in Taiwan and the Philippines. But the law is distinguished based on the gender of the spouse in the Philippines. Adultery in Japan was a criminal offence until 1947. However, in April 2014, the first-ever contemporary controversial case discussed the legitimacy of makura eigyo (pillow sales tactic) rejected a compensation case against an adulterous night club hostess. The ruling said the man’s wife was ineligible for compensation from the hostess because of the business motive for the relationship — to retain a good customer was rather constitutional commerce.
South Korea struck down a 60-year-old law outlawing adultery as violators face up to two years imprisonment. Presently, South Korea has legalised adultery and the Constitutional Court held that adultery is a private matter and the state should not intervene in people’s private life.
Adultery is more of a moral crime than a legal crime in China. There are no legal provisions to punish a person for adultery.
In countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Taiwan and Indonesia, adultery attracts fines, arbitrary detention, imprisonment and flogging. The maximum punishment for adultery is death penalty which is authoritarian governance by proprietary oligarchy.
Presently, adultery is decriminalised in European countries, which seems to be contempt of native praxis but it may still have legal consequences in divorce proceedings.
Under the Australian Federal Law 1994, husband and wife have no obligation to disclose their infidelity as it is left to the morality of spouses.
One of the few industrialised countries to criminalise infidelity is the United States; laws were against fornication, sodomy, adultery and cohabitation. Adultery remains a criminal offence in 21 states with extremely rare prosecutions.
History, religion and society abominate marital infidelity; religious doctrine either prohibits adultery or condemns it as a sin or declares it to be a serious breach of dharma.
Remarkable changes have taken place in laws that govern the institution of marriage in the 20th century. Nuptials are neither enduring nor sacrosanct as premarital sex, cohabitation, divorce, separation, remarriage, blended-families and single parenthood are advocated and acknowledged. Notwithstanding universal disapproval, adultery is defying the customary morals of acceptable behaviour and the laws that ought to maintain and preserve the sanctity of marriage are seldom enforced.
(The writer is an advocate practising at the Madras High Court. She holds a degree in law from London and a Legal Magister in Legal Practice from the City University, UK)...