Adultery – Thy name is an Enigma

happily married but in love with someone else

Section-497- Adultery “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”

In ancient Greece and Roman world, there were harsh laws against adultery but these were applicable only if the female was married. But these laws were not relevant if a man maintained sexual relationship with a slave or an unmarried female. The Bible too forbids adultery and the seventh commandment clearly states this. In customary Judaism, both the parties were equally responsible for adultery but it applied only if the female partner was married. Lord Jesus also abhorred adultery and considered that even looking at a female lustfully is equivalent to adultery.

According to ancient Hindu laws, only the felonious female were punished and killed while the husbands were considered equal to god and were left off with warnings only.

These laws were made in those ancient times where the society had not gone much change but now the evolution is happening rapidly. So, these laws have be scrapped or amended properly.

Our constitution laid emphasis on equal rights among men and women. But this law strike on only men not women. However, adultery is a voluntary physical relation between two married persons and the person who is not their respective spouses. Many nations have decriminalised adultery. In 2006, the National Commission for Women rightly recommended that adultery be decriminalised.

This law is very confusing. It only applies to situations where the wife commits adultery. The wronged husband can invoke Section 497 against his wife’s sexual partner. But if the situation was reversed, and the husband had committed an infidelity with an unmarried woman, his wife has no power to move the law. He faces criminal liability if his lover is married, and her husband files a complaint.

Marriage vows have never been under as much strain as they are now with many men and women in relationships admitting being in an affair. Sexual fidelity is one of the most important symbols of commitment in a relationship. Yet it is increasingly under attack from new pressures, and few of us understand why people have affairs or how best to recover from them. As a lawyer & writer on relationships and family life for 10 years, I felt it was time to put attitudes to infidelity under the microscope if we want to strengthen our love lives and families.

Marriage needs the same commitment to developing a loving and satisfying relationship. We can’t divide ourselves in many directions without losing the intensity in our marriage. Our energy is already split between our jobs, our kids, and our marriage. The only way to keep a marriage strong is to put it first and foremost always. Just because we live in an ever-changing “enlightened” world doesn’t mean we should eliminate healthy marital concepts because they sound archaic.

For the past three years I have examined all of the research, interviewed experts such as marital therapists, divorce lawyers and people working in ‘the infidelity business’ and talked to 100 men and women who have lived through the experience of an affair themselves. The results were often surprising.

Ask around and you’ll see. I asked: friends, friends of friends of friends, online contacts and distant colleagues. I asked some youngsters, some older people, some women, and some men. Is anyone monogamous anymore? Truly monogamous? The evolving landscape of technology means we are connected – sometimes intensely and continuously – with many more people than before. Technology also means that the very definitions of infidelity have broadened. Emotional infidelities are increasingly an issue; entire affairs are played out online; intense relationships – which may or may not blur the line on friendship, who knows?

Many people have told me that getting indulged with members of the opposite sex ( both male and female )isn’t a problem for them because it would never lead to infidelity. Having an affair is not a big problem for them. You will simply be chipping away at your marriage every time you get that ping of excitement from an emotionally stimulating moment with someone of the opposite sex. It’s dangerous to your marriage, and not just because it may lead to sex. It drains your marriage of the immense energy it needs to grow; the energy to flirt with each other, to be emotionally stimulated by a different point of view, to share the excitement with someone who wants to know who you are.

These days long working hours of the couples is one of crux of the issue. The whole thing is about intention and your energy. Frequent use of the social medias has gradually led to a rise in online infidelity. In couples who present with this issue, an exploration into the quality of their marital relationship and sexual satisfaction is necessary. An emotional betrayal can be even more damaging to a marriage than a physical one. This involves virtual sex. The freedom to fantasize, without the intrusion of reality – as well as the anonymity afforded by the Internet -also can be tempting.

Think of a situation, when newlywed couple enjoying the heaven and suddenly after 6months, the wife got to know that her husband is having physical relation with his sister-in-law. She caught them red handed. Arguments, retaliations, abuses, criticism, fault finding and what not. She tried to convince her husband but didn’t pay heed to her. She on and off shuttled between her in laws and parents. There was hardly any physical relationship between both of them. What happened mean while that the girl in her parent’s locality got attracted to a guy. They shared numbers. She felt good and she finds a healing effect after sharing her pain with the guy. She had intimate relations. Somehow the husband got to know about the episode. He along with the girl’s parents lodged a complaint against the guy. But he was released soon as the girl interfered in the matter and admitted her relationship with the guy. Now, the problem is that the girl is pregnant and carrying the foetus of the lover. They eloped and the girl wants to take a divorce from her husband without any alimony or maintenance. If the case is not filed then the lover guy will be trapped under Sec 497 of I.P.C , Adultery . Adultery defined, “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”

Adv Sudhir Mishra of Supreme Court opined that “a welfare-oriented and inclusive country like India, while demanding that a marriage be registered in order to acknowledge and protect the rights of the parties involved, cannot do away with a crime which undermines the same legally recognised institution. Even if the Supreme Court were to decriminalise adultery, it would still remain intact in various personal laws, eventually leading to harrowing inconsistencies.”

One of India’s most famous cases of marital infidelity and courtroom drama is that of navy commander KM Nanavati, who shot dead his wife Sylvia’s lover, the businessman Prem Ahuja. While Nanavati faced prosecution for murder, Sylvia did not. That 1950s crime of passion was the reason India abolished the jury system. That case has inspired many Bollywood movies.

It has come as a thunderbolt to me, that despite the importance given to marriage in Indian society, frauding and cheating on your wife in Indian marriages seems to treated very normal these days. This is, of course, a massive generalisation, but the amount of unfaithful Indian men who socialise quite openly with their mistresses astonishes me, and is not something I see quite as blatantly. Arranged marriages forced upon young people, who are not given a choice in their partner, leading to great unhappiness later in life as they realise their incompatibility. Infidelity rate is way higher in urban areas. No study, would give you a correct answer. What is the point of survey when relationships these days are based on lies, deception and double dealing? For some “adultery “is a crime against marriage while infidelity doesn’t attract any seriousness. Where there is emotional intimacy, there is sexual intimacy too. Extra marital affair, office romance, virtual sex, online sex, live-in relationships, same-sex affairs are escalating. Age gap is shrinking and contracting and more couples are into slippery affairs.

Hence I am leaving the space without any conclusion or moral. Let the readers decide.

Siddhartha Mishra

( The author is a Lawyer )


Readers Comments On “Adultery – Thy name is an Enigma”

  1. Maybe it’s just me, but adultery seems to be everywhere these days. For better or worse, we’re all familiar with the misdeeds of many celebrities. There are dating websites that specialise in arranging extramarital liaisons, while marriage therapists try to help couples deal with the fallout, and divorce lawyers stand ready to clean up the mess if therapy fails. When someone has an affair to make up for a lack of emotional intimacy in his or her marriage, and less when the affair is purely sexual. I suppose that implies that I believe affection, caring, and closeness are more important human needs than sex is, and such an inference would be correct. Adultery carries enormous risks, loss of marriage or primary relationship, less contact with your children, alienation from friends loss of reputation, and, if you’re wealthy, a good chunk of that wealth. That’s why I’m so astounded by wealthy, powerful, or famous people having purely sexual affairs, given how much more they have to lose.

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